Houston Release Blitz & Giveaway

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….

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ITUNES
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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.”

 

 

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Happy Reading,

Houston looked around his house again. It looked better than it had since he moved in. Dusting and running a vacuum were just too easy to let slide. Thus the reason his home had resembled the haunted house he’d gone to every year since he was a kid. He’d been wanting to hire a cleaning service to come in once a week and clean up after him, but he’d not been able to sit still long enough to do it. Mom had come to the rescue for him once again. Not that he’d asked her to hire someone, but when she’d come over yesterday morning, she’d commented on how much laundry wasn’t done. “I’ve been working on the spring catalog my agent wants. I had this idea, and instead of just letting it stew, I went ahead and worked on it to make sure it was plausible to put together.” Mom looked at the piece he’d been working on. “I know it’s rough right now, but I can see it finished. The way the pieces I threw fit together was what I was having so much trouble getting my head wrapped around.” “You need to take better care of yourself and your home, Houston. What if your mate had to come here? What do you think she’d think of me if you were to have a home looking like this one?” He kissed his mom on the cheek and told her he wasn’t worried. “You’d let her think I raised a slob? Shame on you, Houston Robinson. I would have been mortified if she were to see this house looking like this. Why have I never noticed this before today?” “You’ve been really polite?” She smacked him on the chest. “I’ll get around to it when I have time. Which, as I said, hasn’t been all that much lately. As soon as I can, I’m going to hire someone to come in here and dust and stuff for me.” “I’ll do it.” Houston didn’t even bother arguing with her. It would get done without any effort from him. Not that he was lazy—he was just really busy at the moment. “I’ve also been thinking about something else. The reason I came here.

What do you think of me getting a job?” “Do you need one?” She said not for the money, but she’d like something to do every day. “Okay, I guess I can understand that. What about the kids? Are you tired of babysitting already?” “No. Never that. I was just thinking if I were to babysit them all the time, I might become a little adult starved. Like needing adult company. I know the girls and I are hanging out more, but to be honest with you, son, they sort of scare me to death at times.” Houston told her they scared him as well. “Yes, well, I’ve seen the lot of you around them. You’re like putty in their hands. I suppose when you have someone pull a gun on you a couple of times to get people to listen to you, that will do it. I don’t want to have to do that.” He got it as soon as she turned away from him. “You think we don’t respect you, Mom?” She didn’t turn back around. Nor did she tell him that wasn’t it. And to Houston, that was very telling. “Mom, you do know we’re all terrified of you much more than we are of them. I mean, with them, it’s just a matter of choosing to do what they tell us. With you, it’s a need to do what you tell us.”

She looked at him oddly, and he smiled. Telling her it came out wrong, he started to tell her what he meant. But she put her hand over his mouth then and looked up at him. Houston in that moment realized how much older his mother looked. How there were wrinkles around her eyes. Her hair was graying. Houston hugged her tightly to him until she begged to be let go. “I can live without them coming around here every day. But my day isn’t complete unless I see and speak to you at least twice. I want to seek you out when I need a good slap on the butt to get my bottom in gear. I love seeing you smile at me when you think I’m doing something wonderful. Mom, when you come into my studio and look around, it makes me feel proud—not just of myself, but of you. To have a mother take such an interest in what I’m up to, what I’ve been doing, even how my home looks, makes me feel loved and cherished. And that is how I feel about you, Mother dear. Like I couldn’t love you anymore. I couldn’t cherish your love more without a bigger heart. You give me that. Every time I see you, you make me want to be the best man there is.” He grinned at her. “I don’t think I said that quite right.” “You did it very well.” She hugged him again. “Oh, Houston. You are the sloppiest of all my sons, not even counting that mess of mud you work in, but you are also by far the most romantic.” “Thank you. I think seeing the way Dad would simply bring you flowers, whether he messed up or not, showed me you could show your love for someone all the time, not just when the other person is upset with you.

He even brought you candy when he heard you were trying to diet. I realized when he did that, he was telling you, in his own way, that he loved you just the way you were. Dad, for all his faults and crazy sayings, made us want to be the most romantic men in the world. But I think I’m the only one that paid attention.” Mom said she thought he was right. “I love you so much, Mom.” “You’ve made this old woman feel very special today, Houston.” He told her he didn’t know any old ladies. “I cannot wait to see you with a mate. I have to tell you, it’s you I’ve been waiting to find her. I only hope she sees all this goodness in you and doesn’t try and beat it out of you because she doesn’t like it.” “If she does, then I’ll have to use my charms on you. Just so I don’t lose any of it.” They were both laughing by then, and he knew his mom was feeling better. He thought about the job she’d been asking him about. “What is it you’d like to do? Anything at all comes to mind?” “Nothing really. But then everything does. The one thing I was thinking the hardest on was flipping. I know I can get things cheaper than they sell them for in those big fancy stores. And I so love going to auctions. What if I were to open a place for second-hand goods? Not an antique store, though I would have a few antiques in there. Just a place where someone could browse around and pick up something they might need for a much better price than brand new.” He told her she’d be perfect at it. “I don’t know about perfect, but it would give me a chance to go every day. Not every day. I don’t know. But a place all my own where I could just talk to people. I’m not as social as your father, but it would be nice.”

“Mom, no one is as social as Dad.” They’d had had a good laugh about it, and he’d taken her to lunch. Now, two days later, his home was looking good, he had food in the fridge, and clean clothing hung in his room. The area rugs in his living room looked so good he found himself eating in the kitchen more so as not to mess it up. Stepping out onto his back deck after having a couple of sandwiches for lunch, he took off his shirt. Houston didn’t usually allow himself a good run until he was finished with a project. But today, and yesterday for that matter had been really productive days. Treating himself felt kind of good as he put his hands into his pants to remove them. He might even call one of— “Hey there, Tarzan. Don’t do that just yet.” He looked to his right and saw the woman, dressed in a shirt about four sizes too big for her and a pair of tennis shoes. If she had on anything more, he couldn’t tell. “I’m just passing through, and I’d like to not have to witness any kind of that shit going on.” “What is it you think I was going to do?” She told him. “I don’t usually masturbate out on my deck at one in the afternoon. I hold off until twilight, so I can sleep better.” He grinned at her. “Well, whatever floats your boat, I guess. I’m only passing by but still have no desire to witness anything you might be doing. I was told I could cut across the lawns back here and no one would bother me.” He watched her make her way through his yard until she was standing near the pool and him. “You’re one of the brothers. Did your mom by chance take any kind of enhancement drugs to have you guys? You’re bigger than fuck, aren’t you?” “I have no idea what that might even mean. I’m tall, yes. Wide? I suppose so. I’m also a tiger.

Why were you given permission to cross my yard? You’d better have a good answer before I call the police.” She asked him if he was one to call the police on someone crossing his yard. “I am if I don’t know you. There are children that play in these yards. Not to mention, my parents.” “I’ve not met your parents, but by the looks of you and Thatcher, I’d say they were big enough to take care of themselves. Rogen could kick some major ass too if she— I was going to say if she had to, but I think she enjoys it too much to limit it to when she has to.” Naming names of his family wasn’t endearing her to him. Houston told her that. “I’m not going to tell you my name because I don’t know you either. I will tell you I’ve been staying with Rogen and Thatcher for the last week. They have a son named Jimmy, and Rogen is going to have another child. I don’t know when, and frankly, I don’t care, but that’s what I feel comfortable telling you.” “You’re hurt.” She nodded at him and put her hand to her belly. The blood seeped through. “Christ, why didn’t you say something? Come here.” Houston reached for her only to come up short when she put a knife at his balls. He didn’t move but looked at her face. She was beautiful, but he could also see that she wasn’t at all trusting. Fine by him, he didn’t trust her either. Not yet. “I’m going to pick you up and take you into my house. I’m also going to reach out to Thatcher and let him know his patient is here and bleeding.” She didn’t so much as blink at him.

“You’re getting weaker by the moment here. In a few seconds, I’ll be able to pick you up without your permission, but I’d rather have it before I do.” “I fucking hurt.” He nodded and moved slowly to pick her up in his arms. When he had her there, he told her what he was doing with each step he took. “Look, fucktard, I’m not addled, just hurting. I shouldn’t have gone on a walk at all, much less one that wore me out. Just fucking put me on your floor and let me die right here. I’m in fucking pain. If you ever see my dog, Charlie, tell him I’ve missed him and love him to pieces.” Thatcher. Come here quick. I have a pretty redhead in my arms who is bleeding and in pain. Thatcher said he was on his way and asked him what her name was. I have no idea. She said she doesn’t trust me with that. But she knew you. Her name is Tru Justice. You can’t tell anyone who she is. He asked if that was really her name. It’s Trudy, but that’s what she goes by. She, Rogen, and now Anna all work together. They had an argument, and that one took off. I think she was ready to kill the other two. Seriously? She really must be addled. Thatcher was still laughing as he came up on Houston’s deck and into his home. “She said she was told she could cross the lawns back here and not be bothered. Someone might have told me. Oh, and she must have a dog named Charlie someplace.” “He’s at her parents, I guess. And when are you ever out of your cave over there this time of day? I thought it would be easy sailing for her since no one is in their homes until dark. Especially you. What happened? Did you have a need to come out during the daylight hours?” Thatcher was so funny at times. Right now wasn’t one of the times. “Tru, I’m going to give you something for pain. Then I’m going to check out your wounds. What happened that you started bleeding again?” “I thought while I was out, I’d join a gymnastics team.

The issue was, instead of me getting to work up to being on their team, I was running hurdles. Those fuckers are hard to jump over when there are stitches in a belly.” Houston laughed, and Thatcher growled. “Oh, grow the fuck up, you moron. I was walking, and I leaned over to pick up a rock to skip it over the pond, or whatever that is back there. What the hell happened to your sense of humor? Or does the rod in your ass make it so you can’t find a joke funny?” “He’s been like that since he was a child,” Thatcher told Houston he wasn’t helping. “Oh, I don’t know, I seem to be having fun. And she is smiling now and working through the pain. You really are a stick in the mud at times. Me? I’m always up for a good laugh.” “I know. Just look at your hair.” He didn’t trust Thatcher to tell him if his hair really did look bad. But looking at Tru, she only had to nod to have him turning to his reflection in the glass door out to the deck. “Made you look.” Houston started to reach for Thatcher to put him in a headlock when he got a look at Tru’s belly. Christ, she’d been walking around with that? He moved around his brother and got a little closer to her. Houston didn’t know what he was going to do, but comforting her came to mind. As soon as he was close enough to smell more than her blood, it hit him hard who she was to him. ~~~

Tru watched the other man closely. Something had changed in him in the last few minutes, and she wasn’t sure she wanted to know what it was. Thatcher was so intense all the time in showing Rogen he loved her, or when he talked about his parents and brothers. This one, Houston, seemed to be the fun one in the family. Right up until he touched his fingers to her belly wound. “You’ll have to lay low here for a couple of days, I’m afraid.” She told Thatcher no. “I wasn’t putting that up for debate, Tru. You’ve pulled a few too many stitches for me to think taking you back to our home is going to make things any better for you.” “I was fucking taking a walk. It can’t possibly have done anything that bad. I mean, fuck, I just needed to get out of the house for a little while. You have to know what that feels like.” Thatcher nodded and told her he did. However, she needed to stay here. “Mother fuck. Why does everything have to backfire on me? I needed a walk, not a whole new set of four walls to fucking look at.” “I’ll take you out onto the deck when you want. That’ll be something different.” She eyed Houston and asked him what his problem was. “Problem? I don’t have any problems. I was just trying to make your stay here more comfortable. If it helps you decide, I don’t spend a lot of time in the house lately. I have a deadline.” “You’re the potter.” Houston nodded. “You’ll have to be briefed on me staying here, I would imagine. It seems someone is out to kill my ass, and we haven’t figured out who it is yet. I mean, I know who shot me—I just don’t know who told her to do it. And contrary to popular belief, I know a man from a woman.” “I’m sorry?” She told him how the person who shot her was a woman. That at some point, it was thought a man had done it when his body was found. “I still don’t get your reference on that, but that’s all right. So long as you’re safe now.

Also, if you work with Rogen, I guess I can understand that someone might be out to get you. They are her too sometimes.” She still didn’t like this version of Houston. He was as uptight as Thatcher was most of the time. “Or you might like this better. I could heal you, and then you’d be about as good as new. I’m betting you’d like that. I know I would.” “Houston?” He just looked at his brother and nodded. “All right then. This might work out better for both of you. You can let him heal you, and he’s right—you’ll be about as good as new—” “What the ever-loving fuck just happened here?” Houston asked her what she meant. “That little nod. I’m paid to pay attention, and something just transpired between the two of you. You either tell me, or I blow your fucking brains out all over this nice soft sofa.” She was armed, as she was when she was out working. Only today, she was only carrying a gun and not a lot of other things to kill with. Putting the gun to Houston’s head, simply because he was closer, she watched him smile, and her heart did a little flip in her chest. “You’re my mate. While I know anyone of us could have healed you, even Thatcher, he didn’t because you’d smell like him, and my cat, a tiger, would be really pissed off.” She asked him why the hell that should matter to her. “That my cat would be pissed off? I guess nothing to you. But I would have had to hurt my brother.”

“Because you would possess me, and he would have his scent all over me. You know that makes absolutely no sense at all. Who the fuck cares who heals who, and why the hell wasn’t I given that option the first time you operated on me?” Houston told her for the reasons he’d just said to her. “I don’t give two fucking figs who does this, but I don’t want either of you to do it now. Find another one to heal me. Another brother to come here and fix me.” “I’ll have to kill them if they do. Or at least try.” Tru rolled her eyes. She wasn’t hurting right now, but the thought that she could not be hurting was very appealing. All these rules, however, were just pissing her off. “I can do it.

I would gladly do it for you. But it will be me only because I have no desire to lose one of my brothers over this. I hate to do this to you. You have no idea how much it hurts me too. But it’ll have to be me, or you wait this out like a human.” “I see.” She pulled her shirt down over her wounds and looked at Thatcher. “I’m finished here. I want you to take me back to your place. If you can’t do it, then I’ll find someone who can so dumbass here won’t get his underwear in a cinch. Your mother? Father?” “I’ve called Rogen.” She nodded and then looked at Houston, who was just staring at her. “Mate or not, you come near me again, and I will not ask questions as to why you’re there. I’ll blow your fucking dick off, then your brains. If you have any.” “Houston?” She could hear the voice but didn’t know it. “Houston, why is there a woman on your couch bleeding?” He didn’t take his eyes off her as he spoke to the woman behind her. “Mom, this is my mate, Tru. Tru, this is my mom, Meggie Robinson.” Meggie came to the side of the couch where she could see her. “She’s pissed off right now and wants to go back over to Thatcher’s home. I don’t know what is going on, but I plan to find out.” When he stood up, she could see the anger all over his body. Stiff as a rod didn’t cover how angry he seemed to be. She waited for him to—well, she didn’t know what he might do to her, so when he turned on his heel and went out onto the deck he’d been on earlier, she laid back and closed her eyes. Tru had no idea why, but she felt like she’d just lost a major battle. And she was going to wear the scars for the rest of her days. “Houston said he’d stay at our home and have someone come here and take care that you’re all right,” Tru told her she didn’t want to push him out of his own house.

“Well, you did, didn’t you? I’m not sure I like you overly much right now, young lady. To think I was excited for him to find someone to love. Then in less time than it took for him to figure this out with you, you crushed him.” “I didn’t ask to be his fucking mate.” Meggie just glared at her. “That won’t work with me, Mrs. Robinson. I’m made of sterner stuff than most people. I’m a hired killer, and nothing much bothers me.” “Well then, I wish you luck with this. Because I believe you’re going to need it. I was asked to come here and take care of you by my son. I’ll do that. But you, you’re on my list.” Tru didn’t know why, but that hurt her heart more than she’d ever been hurt by any of her family members. “All right, Ms. Justice. Can I get you anything right now?” “No. I’m fine.” Meggie nodded and left the room. Tru looked at Thatcher. “Do you have something to say to me? If you do, then say it and leave me alone. I didn’t ask for this bullshit, and I don’t need someone else telling me I’m fucking up.” Thatcher stood up.

“No. Nothing to say to you about this. Your wounds were looking better until today. If I were you, I’d try very hard to stick to resting rather than running around in the yard. Otherwise, you might have to spend more time with this family than you obviously want to.” He laid a cell phone on her lap. “That’s from Rogen. She said she’d get in touch with you if she needed something.” When he left her too, Tru laid there on the couch, fighting tears. It had been a very long time since she’d been so upset and hurt she wanted to cry. Forever since anyone had spoken to her as Meggie had. When she heard Meggie speaking again behind her, it took her a few moments to realize she was more than likely talking to Houston. He was there, Tru figured out, to get some clothing. She laid there for a while before she tried to figure out if she could sit up or not. When the pain took her breath away, she laid back down. The remote to the large television was within her reach, but she didn’t want to see what she could find to occupy her mind. Not yet at any rate. This was just bullshit. Why was she the bad guy in all of this? She’d been a bitch, she told herself. And she’d hurt someone who was only doing what they’d been trained to do. Well, that’s what she’d done as well. Done what she’d been trained to do. Pushing people away, so they didn’t get too close, was something she’d been doing since she was in the service. Having a family or even friends could get both of you killed.

Tru had seen it happen time and time again. Even children were nothing more than a pawn in her line of work. That was why she’d been so surprised when she heard Rogen had not only married but had children. Not me, she told herself. Looking out the doorway to the back yard, she wondered what it would be like to be free enough to take off your clothing and run. How it would make her feel not to have to put her gun on her person before she did her clothing. To know the next time her phone rang, it wasn’t going to be someone needing a clean-up. Tru figured she’d never know that sort of companionship with anyone. When the phone did ring, she declined to answer it. There was no point in talking to Rogen right now. She had a feeling she was going to chew her out about how she’d treated her brother. When it rang a second time, she nearly answered it but declined it as well. It wasn’t until it rang for the third time in as many seconds that she finally answered it. “What the fuck do you want? Another pound of flesh?” Rogen laughed. “What the fuck do you find so funny? Is it that I was put in my place by your mother-in-law, or the fact that I’m stuck here and can’t get out?” “You’re stuck there until you’re released by my husband. First, the fact you did what you did is all on you. Secondly—and this is very important. You’re very lucky no one wants to kill you right now. Hurting the sweetest woman I know will get your ass plugged. Thirdly, you fucked up.

Badly. Either fix it now, or I call your boss and have him come and get your ass. Just so you know, he’s not been cleared as not being your killer either.” She told her to call him then. “You have a death wish? Well, I’ll be happy to help you out with that. Straighten your ass out or so help me, Trudy Justice, I will bury you in the back yard alive.” The line went dead, and Tru was tempted to toss the fucking phone across the room. But she only laid it down on her lap and counted. It was the only way she knew that worked to bring her temper down. When she got to five hundred, Tru stretched and tried again. Nothing was working right now, and she had a feeling that was her fucking fault as well. Screaming made her feel better, but Tru was startled when Mrs. Robinson came into the room with a gun in her hand. Staring at each other, Tru nodded when Meggie asked her if she was all right. Then she simply turned and left her there. Tru had no idea why, but she thought that was the funniest thing she’d seen in a long time. The mild-mannered Mrs. Robinson standing in the living room, with a flower in her hair and wearing a huge apron—obviously meant for a man—pointing a gun at the outside door. Tru thought that image alone would get her through the worst of times for the rest of her life. Suddenly exhausted, she pulled the pretty afghan over her body and closed her eyes. Perhaps when she woke up, she’d feel well enough to go back to Rogen’s home— if she’d be welcome there. Tru knew she’d fucked up big time, but right now, she didn’t care if she fixed it.

Bancroft Dalton Kiss Release Blitz & Giveaway

 

Dalton’s Kiss Series

  1. Bancroft
  2. Stanley
  3. Donald
  4. Clyde
  5. Ramon
  6. Brian

Kelly Roman was good at her job. As a forensic anthropologist, she could help the dead and help the families find closure. The one thing she hated about her job was her boss, Shamus Van. That man was out to sabotage everything she did. And when he brought in the new chief of police, Bancroft Dalton, to make her look bad, that was the last straw. She’d quit before they had a chance to fire her.

When Bancroft showed up at her front door, he asked to be invited in, and when he told her he couldn’t lie to her, it set off all kinds of bells and whistles in Kelly’s suspicions. It wasn’t the fact that he was a vampire that bothered her, it was the part about him not being able to lie to her. She knew shifters couldn’t lie to their mates. There was no way in hell she was letting a man barge into her life and take over….

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Sonja Zucker
Niki Driscoll
Cheryl Lopez
Teri Bellville

 

 

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Kelly played with the clay in her hand and thought about the work she still needed to do. The bust was coming along nicely, she supposed. But she had a feeling that the information she’d been given two days ago wasn’t correct. The skull, or what was left of it, wasn’t that of an older white woman at all, but that of a young child—a male. And he hadn’t been dead nearly as long as she’d been led to believe, the fifteen years that her boss had told her. She had also found other things that were wrong. “Well, Kelly, you’re not going to finish if you stand around staring at it while having a one-sided conversation. You know what you have to do. It’s start over or stare at this sucker until it fixes itself.” She made sure that she was at least reasonably alone before she tore everything off the partial skull to start over. She’d been talking to herself for years, and the dead didn’t mind it at all, she thought with a giggle. “Now, this is where it will start getting me sacked.” Kelly Roman worked as a forensic anthropologist, as well as working with the police in forensic clues in one of the most deadly cities in the nation. Always, someone that liked to be on top of things in the medical field, Kelly was a medical doctor, a coroner, as well as a registered police officer when she needed to wear that hat. Also, when they needed some specialized work, she would go to work with the FBI. And she hated it. Not what she did—Kelly loved working on the remains of the dead and solving their deaths, putting them together so their families could lay them to rest. It was her boss, Lord Shamus Van, that she disliked with a double side of passion. No one knew if he was a real lord or not. She personally didn’t think so, nor did she really care. She thought perhaps he’d been an overseer for someone when he was younger and the job had gone to his head. Shamus treated everyone like he was used to cracking the whip and people doing what he said. At two-thirty in the morning, just a little over six hours after she’d started over, she knew that she’d been correct. Not only was it a male, but he’d been younger than she’d first thought.

Only having the skull, and only part of that, made guessing harder if the information she’d been given was wrong in the first place. Instead of being ten to twelve, she was sure that his age was closer to five or six. Thinking of the other things that she’d been told, Kelly decided it was time that she stood up to stretch and look over those notes for a moment. She’d forget to do that at times and would stiffen up terribly if she sat for too long. “What are you doing here, Miss Roman?” Nearly screaming when his lordship spoke behind her, she dropped her glass of water and it went everywhere. “You were told there would be no overtime paid to you if you worked past midnight again. What are you doing here at this hour anyway? I want you out of here right this moment. And you’ll be here on time in the morning as well. Don’t think you can slack off on my—the work you’ve been assigned.”

Something about the way he kept looking around seemed like he was either thinking that they weren’t alone, or that she wasn’t. Or he was expecting someone and didn’t want her to know about the meeting—or whatever they were doing here. Instead of answering him, she asked him what he was doing there. “I mean, as far as I understand it, the overtime rule didn’t just apply to me. It applied to you as well. But now that I think about it, you rarely work forty hours a week as it is.” She glared at him. “That didn’t answer my question, by the way. What are you doing here?” “I come and go as I please, young lady. And I certainly do not answer to a second rate pathologist like you.” She watched as he looked at the clock that was behind him for the second time in as many minutes. “I want you to leave here this moment. I will not say it again.” “Good. I thought it was boring the first time you said it.” Kelly turned her back on him, shocked that she’d said that to him. “I’m working on that skull you had me working on this morning. Or I guess, yesterday morning. Nothing you told me was correct, by the way. What’s up with that mess?” Leaving him there, she decided that it felt pretty good to be able to say what she wanted. Not that she wanted to make a habit of talking back to someone. Kelly was exhausted yet happy, and that was what she was going to say if someone brought her to task about it. “I said for you to— What have you done? Why have you changed the specs on what you were given? Damn it. You’re going to ruin everything.” When he reached for the skull, she stepped in front of the table to block him from touching it. “You will tear up that monstrosity right now and do what you were told. This minute. You are going to regret this.

I’m telling you right now that—” “Is there something going on here? Something that I need to be aware of? Shamus, you asked me to come here at this ungodly hour. What did you want?” She didn’t know the voice, nor the man when she peeked at him around Shamus. “Shamus, leave that young woman alone and answer me.” “Well, I was hoping to do this without her here, but since she has broken the rules—again, I might add—then this will be as good a time as ever. This is Miss Kelly Roman, the bane of my existence. I wanted you to see the work she’s been doing.” Shamus put his hands on her shoulders as if to move her. “Just let me show you what she’s been doing. Oh my, Kelly, what are you doing with my bust?” “What? Your bust? I’ve been working on this all evening. We just had a conversation about it not ten seconds ago. Did you hit your head again when you fell? You’re forever falling on the floor in those ridiculous shoes you wear.” He didn’t have to move her—she turned herself to see what he’d been talking about. “This is my head. You’ve only just arrived here, as I said.” “No. No, you don’t have that right at all. I’ve been here all night. You just came and told me that you were taking my work.” Shamus looked at the stranger. “I was working on this head when she came in here yelling at me to give her the head. I was bent over it working to make sure that we had the correct head. I wanted you to see the notes that she has. They’re nothing like the ones we were given at the meeting, sir.”

Kelly knew she was going to be in deep trouble here. What bothered her most was the way that the stranger was watching her, like she was something he’d caught in a trap. Turning back to Shamus, she tried to salvage her job. “What meeting? I didn’t write those notes. You handed them to me at nine o’clock this morning and told me that what the chief of police was saying the skull was supposed to be was written there. It’s not right, as I’m sure anyone above second rate can see.” Kelly looked at the man again and dawning became clear. “You’re the new chief of police, I’m assuming. You’re here to look at…I’m assuming he told you that I wasn’t playing ball with the new department head, and brought you in here to see the original skull that I’d been working on. The one that wasn’t right from the start.” “Mr. Van was at the meeting this morning when I called everyone in to tell them about the case that was sitting on my desk for six months before I was hired.” He looked her up and down before continuing. “Mr. Van told me that you were out the night before with your boyfriend, and refused to get up and come into a mandatory meeting. Is that correct?” She looked at Shamus, then at her bust. As much as she hated to admit it, she was finished. Not because he told her that she was fired, but because she didn’t have it in her to try and salvage her job every day she had to work here. Not only that, but she just couldn’t bring herself to defend herself to a stranger who was looking at her like he was. Shamus was forever putting her on the spot about this or that.

Whatever was said by her now would only make her look worse than the picture that Shamus had painted of her. It was a clear case of the boss said this and his employee didn’t say what he wanted to hear. Nodding once, she picked up her bust and crushed it against the table. It was her work, and she wasn’t going to leave it behind to be used by either of these pricks. Going out the door, making sure that she knocked against the table enough that the bust fell to the floor, she left the room. There was cursing and laughter, but she didn’t turn to see who was doing what. Kelly was just too pissed off to care anymore. Gathering up her things, she emptied her locker—there wasn’t much in it anyway—then grabbed her jacket and went to the timeclock. It was hard to see through her tears, but she refused to let them fall where anyone here could see them. Clocking out, no one tried to stop her. When she was checked for anything she shouldn’t be taking with her at the front door, she handed her badge to Joe, the security officer on duty. “Kelly? What’s going on?” Shaking her head, she told Joe, the nicest security guard she’d worked within the eight years she’d been here, that she’d had enough. “This have anything to do with his lordship?” “I have to go now. All right? I’ll come over later, when I can, and tell you about what happened.” He nodded at her this time and she left. Kelly was nearly to her car when her cell phone started ringing. Taking it out of her pocket, she turned it off and took it back to Joe, as it was a company phone. He handed her a receipt not only for the phone but also the lock that she’d turned in and her badge.

It would be just like his lordship to sue her for not turning her crap in. Both of them, she and Joe, knew it. She was halfway home when her personal cell phone rang. Turning it off—she was too distraught to talk to anyone at the moment—Kelly made her way home. Pulling into the drive to the apartment complex she was living in, she had a moment of fear. Two cruisers with their lights on were near her front door. Then she realized they were there for the couple that lived next door to her in the apartment she rented. Domestic call, one of the officers told her when she asked if she could go into her home. Giving her permission, he asked her to look in her front room for any kind of bullet holes, as the couple had been trying to kill one another. After checking and finding nothing, she told him and then locked herself into her place. The tears were coming almost as soon as the lock engaged. Kelly was good at what she did. She’d been doing sculpting for the police force for several years before she started working with the bureau. She wasn’t employed by the Feds, but she did do work for them when they had bones that they couldn’t identify. The extra money was good, and she had banked every penny of it for her first house. Shamus had hated that she did theirs over the work that he wanted her to do. Actually, Shamus hated everything that she did. Tonight had been the last straw. It was him or her, and she knew enough to know that she’d never be able to work with someone like him again. Changing into her soft jammies, she sat on the couch and turned on the television. If there had been a murder going on in front of her, she wouldn’t have noticed. Her mind kept going back to the skull she’d been working on, as well as Shamus trying to take credit for her work.

When someone knocked on her door, she thought about ignoring it but got up when the pounding became harder. Pulling the door open, she glared at the person standing there. “What the heck do you want? I think I’ve had enough crapola happen to me for one day, how about you?” The man, the chief of police, asked if he could come in. She moved back from the door. Kelly waved her hand to show him he could enter, but he just stared at her. “You have to invite me in, Kelly.” It took her a full minute to figure out what he was saying to her. “Yes, I’m a vampire. And if you’d allow me to come in, I’ll explain things to you. I also want to talk to you about Shamus Van. I have some questions about his work ethic, as well as some of the things that he—” “No.” He cocked a brow at her. “No, that’s what I said. No. I’m not inviting you in so that you can do whatever you want in here. I’d like to think that I’m strong enough to fight you off, but we both know that since you’re more than likely older than my parents, you have shit going on that I can’t even understand right now. What do you want?” “I came to see you about the remains that had been found. I swear to you, that’s all I need for the moment.” She just stood there, tapping her foot. “All right—that’s the truth. I can’t lie to you anyway, but I did go there to see what you’d come up with on it. I had no idea that Shamus had sabotaged your working there. But in the three weeks, I’ve been working as chief, I’ve heard more about your bad work habits than I have about all the other men that are working for me.

He’s a little bastard if you ask me.” “I didn’t. But that’s not a bad description of him. Why did you allow him to go on telling you that he’d done my work? Or for that matter, why did you have to go there with him? He hates me, you know.” The chief, she thought his name was Bancroft Dalton, told her that Shamus did hate her. “Well, that was harsh. Couldn’t you have just said you didn’t know? Not that it matters. I’m not going to work for him or you anymore. I have had enough of being treated as a— What did you just say to me?” “Which time?” She glared at him. “Well, we have had quite an extensive conversation while I’m standing out here where people can see me. Perhaps you could narrow it down just a little.” “You said that you can’t lie to me.” He said that he couldn’t. “I don’t know that many vampires—just two of them—but I do know a great many shifters. When they say crapola like that it means that they’re mated or something. Please tell me that isn’t what it means to you as a vamp.” “I’m afraid it does.” She slammed the door in his face, and she heard him laughing. That ticked her off enough that she opened the door again to yell at him. Mrs. Miller, the woman across the hall from her, was speaking to Bancroft. “Yes, ma’am. We’ve had a little spat, and I’m trying my best to make it up to her. She’s very stubborn.” “A woman needs to be stubborn nowadays. If they’re not, then men will think they’re nothing more than the rug under their stinky feet. You should have come on your knees with flowers, young man. It never hurts to be bringing her pretties, even when you’ve not screwed up enough to have you on the other side of the door.” Mrs. Miller looked at her. “You’re home late, honey.

You might want to let this man in to keep you safe. There are all kinds of monsters out there that can hurt you.” “I would never hurt her.” Mrs. Miller told him to see that he didn’t. “Yes, ma’am. I wouldn’t hurt her for any reason. I just want to speak to her for a little while here. She’s stubborn, as I said.” “Get in here, you fool.” He stepped over the threshold, and Kelly had the wind knocked out of her when his magic or whatever hit her. “You did something. What did you do? I’m telling you right now, I’m not going to be putting up with any shenanigans. I have enough crapola going on in my life without you interfering.” “Shenanigans? Crapola? How old are you?” He laughed, then sat down where she’d been on the couch. “Since I’m assuming you don’t want to talk about us, then I’m going to talk to you about the skull you were working on. You were told that it wasn’t a small child, I’m assuming.” “He said that it was that of a small adult female. When I started on it, having that in mind, it wouldn’t work at all. And there is never going to be an us, you idiot. I don’t want anyone in my life that is going to be there at the end of the day to tell me what a lousy job I’m doing.” He asked her who had done that to her. “No one that you’d know. I’m not going to work for Shamus anyway. The Feds have offered me a full-time position, and I’m going to take it. I’ll have my own office.

I’ll work only on cases for them, and I’ll not have to put up with Shamus.” “I don’t want to burst your bubble or anything, Kelly, but there are Shamuses everywhere you look.” She knew that but didn’t bother answering him. “I would like for you to come back and work for the city in this case. If at the end of the case, you still don’t want to work for us, then I will give you a glowing recommendation and help you move to whatever station they put you in. However, you have to keep in mind that as of the moment we met, where you go, I go. I won’t keep you from your work, but I can’t live without you now that I’ve found you.” Kelly sat down on the chair and thought about what he was saying. She needed a job. While she had been offered the job at the federal level, she wasn’t sure she wanted to take that either. It would mean a move, one that she would have to make if she wanted the job. There were just too many things that were depending on her being local. The most important thing was the little house she’d been dreaming of since she’d been about ten. “I’ll work on the remains, but if Shamus so much as breathes in my direction, I’ll walk out, and you’ll never find me. I know enough to know that since you’ve not touched me, finding me would be difficult. I’m not saying impossible, but it wouldn’t be easy. And I won’t be. Easy, I mean. I don’t want this at all.” He told her that he understood.

“When I tell you to back the heck off, you’d better do it too.” “I will. I won’t rush you.” He stood up when she did. “I need this done as soon as you can get to it. There are a great many people that need to know if it’s their child or not. I have made sure that you have everything you need, including the correct paperwork. Please, could you come back with me today and work on it? Shamus Van is no longer working for the city.” ~*~ Bancroft looked over the paperwork in front of him without seeing it. She was only a few floors below him, and he wasn’t allowed to go and talk to her. Not even to see if she had everything she needed. Kelly had told him, in no uncertain terms, that she didn’t want him breathing on her. Bancroft thought that she was the most beautiful, refreshing woman he’d ever met. “Sir? You asked me to tell you when Dr. Roman needed something. She’s asking for the key. Since I don’t know what that might mean in her department, I thought you might know.” He didn’t but got up to go see what sort of key hadn’t been turned in by Van. “Something about supplies. I know that she’d need them, but as for what it might be, I’m clueless. Did you know that she can carry a gun, but won’t?” “No, I didn’t. Why would—? Did you say that she was Doctor Roman?” He said that it was on her new name badge. Bancroft made a mental note to find her file and look it over. “I had no idea. I need to get to know all the people that work for me a little better. Do you have a good idea about the men and women here?” “Yes, sir. I’ve been the mailman here for nearly twelve years. I know them all.” They were in the elevator when he turned to him. “My name is Roger Dodger. I know what you’re going to ask—did my parents hate me or something?

I believe that they might have. Everyone just calls me Dodge.” “I’d like for you to work with me for a while. Perhaps forever. I need someone that can keep track of me. Do you think you can do that? You’ll be working with me at my home. As I said, I need someone that can keep track of me and my day.” Dodge’s chest looked as if it expanded three times as he started nodding. “Good. I’d like that. I’ll find you an office someplace where I live, and we can work on your duties while we get acquainted. Ask for Jamison when you get there, and he’ll introduce you to the staff. It’s important that you get to know all of them as well. All right?” “An office too? My goodness.” The elevator opened. Bancroft heard the cursing, at least Kelly’s version of it before Dodge did, and while Dodge was afraid, Bancroft thought it funny. Whatever had happened since he left her, she wasn’t the least bit shy about venting about it. “Doc, I asked, and he said he didn’t know. He’s come down to help you.” “He took the key. Not only that, but he must have changed out the frigging lock so that I couldn’t get to the items that I need. I hate that man.” She glared at Bancroft. “I thought I told you to go away. You’re a pain in the bottom.” “I would love to hear where you’ve picked up the colorful way you were cursing before I got here. What’s in there that you need? I’m not saying that you don’t need it, but I have a way of getting into the room when no one else can.” She said she needed calipers, as well as depth markers. “I’m not sure what the second one is, but I can get in there without a key.”

He looked at Dodge. “I would appreciate it if you said nothing about what you’re about to see or hear. I’m a very old vampire.” “I knew that already, sir.” When Bancroft only shook his head, he disappeared from the room they were in into the locker room. Kelly wasn’t going to be any happier about the state of the room than she was about being locked out, he was afraid. Turning the lock, he stood in front of the doorway before she could enter. As soon as she looked around him, he could tell that not only was she royally pissed off, but hurt too. He could only stand there and watch her as she dealt with the emotions on her own. Bancroft had promised not to touch her until she was ready. “Do you have any idea how long I’ve been gathering these things up so that we’d have a good working station? Years of hitting garage sales and auctions. Now, look at it. It’s all but ruined. Why would he do this?” She started picking things up and putting salvageable things into the boxes that were there. He asked her if he could help. “I need all the glasses put into a box if you don’t mind. I guess it doesn’t matter if the lenses are in them. But I do need the glasses.” As he picked them up, tossing out the lenses on the ones that were shattered, Dodge started separating the depth markers, or landmarks, she’d called them—little dots of dowel that would not just measure the thickness of the skin, but also keep it all evened out. He was a little disconcerted when he noticed that there were hundreds of eyeballs looking at him from all over the room when he finished with the glasses.

It took them nearly two hours to get the place back in shape. There had been a great deal of destruction of the equipment. He made himself a mental note to figure out the cost of each thing and charge Van for it. Bancroft was also going to make sure that Kelly had a cash allowance to spend on things that she picked up where she could. She was more than likely saving the city a great deal of money by picking up things like glasses and wigs that didn’t come from a wholesaler. He had security look for the key to the room, and it wasn’t found, so he called someone in to fix that. Calling a locksmith to have the locks changed seemed to cheer Kelly up. When he walked into the room where he’d first met her, he couldn’t believe the skull work that she’d gotten done already. “It would have been a great deal better had I had all the skull, as well as more bones,” Bancroft said that he had them. “Van told me that the police had only found the partial skull. Why wasn’t—? Never mind. I can answer that one on my own. He didn’t want me to have them. May I have them please?” She was upset again, and he didn’t know what to do to comfort her. His beast wanted to find Van and tear him up. But that would only piss her off more, he thought. Bancroft went to the storage room and picked up the box of bones. He did have a moment of fear that Van had gotten to them as well, but they were still in the evidence bag that had been in his office up until yesterday morning. “I’m going to reconstruct the body, then I can have a better idea of what I’m working with. Did anyone try and do any kind of DNA off the bones?” He pulled out the paperwork that had been with the evidence bags and handed it to her. “Seven months ago?

And you’ve not heard back from them? What the heck, Chief Dalton. Are you slacking on your job as well?” He nearly laughed again, thinking that she was so adorable, but thought better of it. She was in a mood. While he didn’t know all her moods yet, he was sure that laughing at her might get him hurt. “I’ve only been here for three weeks. I did mention that, didn’t I?” She growled at him, and he let go of a burst of laughter. “How about I go and call someone to find out what is going on with the results? That will give you plenty of time to work on that growl you have. You need to have it come from the belly. That way, it doesn’t sound so wimpy.” He left before she built up the nice head of steam that he could see coming. Christ, she was beautiful. The fact that she didn’t hold back in speaking to him made him feel like he could spend the day pissing her off just to be delighted by her reactions. Bancroft had a feeling that mate or not, she’d murder him in his sleep, so he would hold back on that fun for a while. Bancroft had to call three different places before he was able to run down the tests that he wanted. The first company hung up on him, telling him that they’d never work for the city again so long as Shamus Van was there. He didn’t get a chance to tell them that he didn’t work there anymore, but he did make himself a note to email them, as well as pay the overdue balance that the city had with them.

The second testing office that he called had been out of business for a year. If he was going to make this work, he was going to have to update the phone numbers that were in the old fashioned Rolodex that was on his desk. By the time he got the right place, several hours had passed, and he was exhausted. Going to the sublevels again, it occurred to him that he could have called Kelly to let her know, but he was glad that he hadn’t when he found her. She’d fallen asleep at the messiest desk he’d ever seen and was snoring slightly. Turning around when Dodge said his name softly, he was astonished at how much work she’d gotten done while he’d been gone. The bones were laid out to form a body. He could see that she’d even marked a couple of places where bones were missing as to what they were. Walking around the table that she’d used, Bancroft could see things that he’d bet no other human could have. This wasn’t just a case of a missing child, as he’d been told. This was murder.

 

 

Oliver M/M Romance Release Blitz & Giveaway

Oliver Moody had a lot on his plate. He was a self-made billionaire, but his personal life left a lot to be desired. Even with his mother and sister plotting his untimely demise, Oliver sought custody of his nephew Lyle, a lost soul he felt was worth saving. Even though he had a lot of new friends, Oliver was still a lonely man.

The doctors had told David Finch he had less than a year to live. The cancer had spread like fire through his body. That day he met Oliver was the best and worst day of his life. He had finally found his soulmate, only to have it snatched away. David was devastated.

Oliver and his newfound family had more magic than David realized…. Maybe there was hope for them yet….

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Jake Winslow’s marriage to the money-grubbing shrew is over. Cutting off her funds, and the simple use of the word “no” sends her packing. When he comes home from work and finds his house empty of everything, including food, he feels—liberated.

Jake’s grandmother, Jenna, calls her friend and attorney, Forrest Stout, to handle Jake’s messy divorce. She can’t stand Jake’s soon-to-be ex-wife and is leaving nothing to chance. Only the best for her grandson and the best is Forrest.

Forrest is a Were Tiger, and he knows “who” he is. He is an oddity in his paranormal world because he is gay. His kind mate for life, and after a recent disastrous attempt to find companionship, he has given up hope of ever finding his life mate.

From the moment Forrest meets Jake for the first time, he knows that Jake is his lifemate, and he wants to run in the opposite direction because Jake isn’t gay. To claim and lose a mate would spell disaster for him. How can he ask a straight man—that he wants with every fiber of his being—to conform to his way of life? He can’t….

Ex-lovers and ex-wives can be a dangerous combination. Especially when neither are right in the head….

 

 

Henry Myers never kept his gender preferences a secret. His mother supported his choices and stood by his side even when his acting career tanked because of it. Now she was gone, and so was his career. Henry was at a loss.

Patrick Garrett, Paddy, was now in a bad place. He had worked at the precinct since he was in his early twenties, and now he could trust no one. Not his captain nor his partner it seemed. He was shot and bleeding, and it seemed the whole precinct was on the take.

Henry had been able to talk to ghosts since a near-death experience he had as a child. They had been following him around ever since. Now it seemed Paddy could see them as well. But when Wally, Henry’s ghostly companion referred to Paddy as Henry’s mate. Neither man was sure how to take that news.

Henry couldn’t deny the attraction to the rugged cop, and if the man didn’t put back on his shirt, he wasn’t so sure he’d be able to control himself.

 

Cameron knew it was set up before he and his sister Caitlynn got there. It was supposed to be a hit to take Cattie out. Cam being there was just a bonus. Had they been entirely human, the explosion would have killed them both. With them both being critically injured, they were taken to a private clinic owned by Jake and Forrest. To the world, they would appear to be dead, at least until Cattie could put together who was out to get them.

Rick wasn’t sure what he was supposed to be doing here. He’d been asked by his buddy and longtime friend, Forrest, to come by his house—he had a gig for him. Rick hadn’t had a gig of any kind for years now and getting a call from Forrest out of the blue, like it had been, couldn’t have come at a better time.

Cam had many abilities. One he felt was somewhat of a curse. He was so in tune to everyone else, like an empath he felt what they felt, so much so that he couldn’t separate his own feelings from theirs. Because of this, he avoided ever having a relationship.

Being an elite shifter, Rick wasn’t confused. As soon as his fingers brushed Cam’s at the kitchen table, he knew they were mates, and he was about the rock Cam’s world.

 

Dr. Brody Downs was ready for a fresh start for him and Jordan both. Filing for divorce from Rachel was the most prudent thing to do under the circumstances. He had known Jordan wasn’t his son when he was born, but he couldn’t love the little guy more if he had been. Rachel wasn’t fit to raise the boy, and he’d fight her for custody if it came to that. Until that time, he was offered a new job in a small town in Ohio, he and Jordan would settle there and try to start anew.

Aaron Wright was aware of the kind doctor at the airport that helped his sister. Emmi had been at the airport to pick him up from his flight when security tackled her to the ground for being with the little boy. It was all a mistake, she was just trying to help the boy find his dad, but they discovered how severely beaten Emmi truly was. Now that Emmi was safe, Aaron was very aware of Dr. Downs, and that had him worried. Aaron wouldn’t consider himself gay. That thought had never crossed his mind—until now.

Brody was too focused on the woman and her injuries to notice the man with her. But now that things were settled, he noticed, and he was confused. Brody wasn’t gay or he didn’t think he was. But when Aaron took his hand, he didn’t want to let go….

 

The death of his sister and niece brought Easton back into town. He carried the guilt of not protecting her from that monster she was married to. Now she was dead, and that monster was in jail where he belonged. Easton would take his infant nephew Alex to raise as his own.
Wayne and Cara had come from the same wolf pack and had both lost their families when the new alpha took over. For years they had only had each other and loved each other like brother and sister. Wayne was gay, but he wanted a child. Cara agreed to be a surrogate and grant him his wish.
Easton had been waiting for the elevator when the doors opened. Cara was in labor and Wayne was doing his best to keep her calm as he pushed her off the elevator. When the wheelchair rolled past, Cara grabbed Easton’s hand like a lifeline when pain hit her. In the confusion, Easton and Wayne touched hands and the connection was instant.
Easton had found his mate. Both men knew it as soon as they touched, but the past had a way of sneaking upon them. Both men had past baggage and Wayne had a secret he feared would tear them apart….

 

 

 

 

 Forbidden Series 

Jake  http://amzn.to/2EynG8K
Henry  http://amzn.to/2E0yWcK
Cameron https://amzn.to/2R

Brody https://amzn.to/2WE6wPz
Easton https://amzn.to/2VjQudr
Oliver https://amzn.to/2Vg3cLJ

 

 

 

 

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Breathing was like having his balls crushed in the hand of someone that had no clue what that did to a man. He was sure the pain he was in right now was much worse than that. Lyle had no illusions that he was anything near being a man yet. When he’d been living with his mom, he thought he was. But now that he was hanging around his Uncle Oliver, he realized that he was nothing more than the little shit that Grandpa had called him. Especially when he thought about all the really dumb things he’d done before the accident and his death experience. “You want something for the pain?” Shaking his head, he told Gracie what she said that he could call her, that he was doing just fine. “Sure, you are. If nothing else, Lyle, you get your stubbornness honestly. Your grandpa and your uncle are the same.” “Thanks.” She just grinned at him when he did the same. “I’m afraid of getting hooked on them, to be honest with you. I’ve seen what it could do to people firsthand. Only thing is they didn’t have to deal with any more pain if they didn’t get the drugs. I’ll take them when I really need them.” “I’m sure you have seen a lot. But the doctor told you that if you let the pain get the better of you, it’ll take more of it to bring the pain back down. Just let yourself be rested. That way, we can both benefit from it.” Lyle, so very insecure now, asked her if she was mad at him. “No. I’m just thinking about the homework you have to do for your class. You should work on it when you’re feeling better. You don’t need to do it all at one time.” “I know. But I have a lot of work to catch up on. I’m working at a sixth-grade level, Uncle Oliver told me. I was a freshman when I started screwing around, and Mom yanked me out of school.

The more I think on that, I wonder why she did that. I wasn’t doing that bad. Not yet, anyway.” She nodded. “I hate to bring this up, Grace, but have you told him what my grandma did to you to get you to help her?” “I haven’t. I’m going to, but I haven’t yet. He’s going to fire me. Not that I don’t deserve it, but I like working for Oliver. Also, it’s going to hurt my family.” Lyle knew that. It was what his grandma was counting on. “I saw that you wrote out everything you’d been involved with concerning your mom and grandma. That must have been difficult for you.” “No. I thought it would be too, but it wasn’t. I’m coming clean like I told him I would. He’s going to make my life into something. I’m working on it with him. Uncle Oliver told me not to forget that I have to do this for me as well. But in my heart, I know that I did him way wrong. I’m ashamed of myself.” Gracie told him that she was ashamed of herself too. “You’re not going to feel any better if you don’t tell him. I know what you’re feeling. It’s like a festering sore, huh?” “It is.” She looked away. “I never in my life dreamed that was what she wanted the code for. I thought it was to steal something of his and then get him to pay her for it.

She didn’t know then what sort of trouble she was in with the bank, but I don’t know other than that I could have saved him if I had just told him.” “You should do it today.” Gracie looked at him then. “You got them someplace safe now, don’t you? I mean, she can’t hurt your parents and sister anymore if she can’t find them, right? You should ask him for help after you tell him everything.” “Tell him what everything?” Uncle Oliver sat down and smiled at him. “I looked over your homework from yesterday before I turned it in for you. You’re doing so much better now. I didn’t even have to tell you that you spelled your name wrong again.” “Gracie has something to tell you. Something important.” Uncle Oliver looked at her, then back at him. “She’s going to have a stroke or something if she doesn’t tell you. But you have to promise me that you don’t go flying off the handle like I would have done a month ago. Okay? I mean, it’s really important that you hear everything. Okay?” “Is it that she helped my mother by telling her the code to my offices?” Gracie stood up, then sat down when Uncle Oliver told her to do it. “I’ve known since the day after I woke up in the hotel. You really didn’t think that I’d not be told who it was that allowed them entrance, did you, Grace? I’m also aware that what she did to make you do that must have hurt you badly. And for that, I’m profoundly sorry, Grace.” “I’m so sorry too.” He asked her if they were safe. “I’m sorry? What did you just say to me?” Uncle Oliver repeated what he’d asked her. Lyle watched the two of them like he would the ball in a tennis match. “You knew that they had my family? You knew what they did to them? Who? How did you find out?” “Quincey.” Lyle had met the big vampire.

It scared the shit…crap out of him even just to hear his name. Looking around to see if he was lurking in corners in the hospital room with them, he tried to make himself look really small, so as not to draw any attention to himself if he was around. “He knew what they had done in the way that they’d hurt your father. Your mom, she’s getting stronger every day, correct? Quincey told me that your sister wasn’t there, or she may well have hurt her as well. But I knew. And I also knew that you’d get around to telling me. It took you long enough.” “There was a great deal going on.” Uncle Oliver nodded then got up to look out the window. “I’m sorry that you were hurt, Oliver. It was never in my mind that they’d try and kill you. But they’d hurt my dad badly enough that we didn’t think he was going to make it. My mother didn’t fare much better. I’ll give you my resignation as soon as—” “I don’t want you to quit, Grace. I know that you had no choice. I have come to see that my life is better than it was before this all came to pass. You do as well, I’m thinking.” She said that she’d been in on him nearly being murdered. “Yes, you were. And you told me you’re sorry for it. The police have no idea what happened. My mother and sister think they messed up somehow. I’d like to keep it that way. Also, I hope that if they approach you again for something like that, you’ll tell me so that I can keep you safe. Now that it’s out in the open, I’d like for you to allow me to take care that your family is as safe as mine is.” “I’ve moved them to my aunt’s house. They, your mother and sister, don’t know that I own it. As you said, I’d like to keep it that way. But I’ve made them safe.” Uncle Oliver pulled out his cell phone and then put it on speaker when someone answered.

“What’s going on?” “Cam, this is Oliver. Yes, much better, thank you. I’d like you to do me a favor. With a computer. Can you see if Grace Lane owns any other property in town? Just do your thing with the computer.” While Lyle didn’t understand that, he watched Gracie. Her face was very pale, and when Cam came back on the line with an address, she had to put her head between her knees. Lyle hurt himself trying to help her. She was visibly upset. “That’s all they have to do?” Uncle Oliver told Gracie that they’d not have Cam do it, but it really was that easy. “I don’t want them hurt again. I don’t know what I’d do if anything happened to them again. Please, I’ll do anything you want. Anything. Just don’t let them be hurt again.” “Cam, thank you so much.” He must have asked him what was going on. “I have my nephew and my good friend Grace here. Her parents were caught up in something nasty and were kidnapped by gunpoint, then beaten to shit when they didn’t think Grace was going to help. My mother did that. She even got her hands dirty in doing it. I was wondering if there was someplace they could stay and be as safe as you’ve made us here.” “Yes. But in order to make them as safe as I can, I’ll have to have a few things from you. Not necessarily just you, but from others.” Uncle Oliver told him that he’d give him any sort of information or money that he needed. “I don’t need the money, but I do need for you to tell me a couple of things. Do they drive? I mean, do they need to be near a grocery store?” Lyle watched Gracie again while Uncle Oliver answered all the questions.

It had been only two weeks that he’d been awake and talking since the car accident, but Uncle Oliver had done a great deal to make sure that he could be a good man. He’d bet anything that he’d do the same for Gracie. She was a nice lady. A month ago, he’d been riding around with a couple of friends of his. Well, the other kids were his friends, but the driver hadn’t been. Lyle had been drunk then, as he was most of the time back before all this, and when the car started to speed up, he simply tightened the seatbelt that was around his waist and let the wind blow over his face. It was the coolest thing he’d ever done. Right up until the car began tossing him around like a ripe tomato and he felt himself lurch forward when the car suddenly stopped like someone had put something in front of him. The tree had been huge and old, he’d been told. Lyle hadn’t been out there since he woke up, but he did remember being cut from the car and the pain that he was in. Uncle Oliver told him that he’d have to face his demons. He meant that once he was on the mend that he had to see what was left of the car, as well as what had happened to the other victims that had been with them. He knew enough that two of them were killed on impact. One of them, the driver, had ended up in the top of a tree so far away it was only by chance that he’d been found. That, Uncle Oliver, told him, could very well have been him.

Lyle told himself that every day when he wanted to whine about something that wasn’t going his way. He knew it would stay with him for the rest of his life, even if he didn’t have hundreds of cuts all over his body. Even being taken out of the car like he had, he knew that he’d been dead a few times. They’d had to work hard to save his life. He was going to make sure that no one was disappointed that they had. Then when he’d been on the operating table, his grandpa had come to see him. He’d died some years ago, and Lyle had thought for sure that he was dead as well. He was, he’d been told. He’d been told that he’d died several times that day, and he was lucky that someone had cared enough to come and tell him what a putz he’d been. Worse than that, his grandpa had told him he was a horrible, terrible person. Grandpa had asked him if he thought that he was worth the trouble of someone saving him. It was the first time that anyone had put it to him like that, and Lyle knew that he’d not been. But he didn’t want to die either. He told him that. “You remember that all the time, and you might just make it,” Lyle asked him what he had to do. “You can start by turning your life around. You can do it too. You’ve only done some petty shit that will get you into a little trouble, but you’re headed for the big times if I don’t miss my bet. Just like your momma there. Lyle, that momma and grandmammy of yours, they’re going to drag you right down with them.” He told him he could get some help with that, turning himself around with Uncle Oliver’s help. “Oliver is a good man, that grandson of mine. Now you? You should have been nothing more than a stain on your momma’s sheets. But you’re here now, and there is nothing we can do about that. Except to allow you to die right there on the operating table.” He didn’t want to but thought that it was no less than he deserved. “You want to make things right with yourself and live to tell about what you’ve been up to?” “I do. I really do. I don’t want to…I could have died, and no one would have given a rats ass about it.” Grandpa said that he wouldn’t have either had he not been killed off by Honey. “Grandma killed you? Why?” He knew the answer to that now. It wasn’t just that she wanted the jewelry that Grandpa had given over to Uncle Oliver, but she wanted it all. Everything that didn’t belong to her. The same way he had been, he was sorry to say.

But no more. Lyle had a long list of things that he was going to have to do. None of it was really all that difficult. He had to go to school when he was able, and keep his grades up, which was something he’d always been able to do without much studying. And he was to own up to what kind of person he’d been and make restitution. That, he thought, was harder than anything, admitting that he’d been a part of some really terrible things while living with his mom, and sometimes living with Grandma too. Lyle had allowed his mom to take him out of school when he started causing some trouble. She was to blame for that. Not fully, because he knew that he could have just not done what she wanted. But after a while, he’d gotten lazy, Uncle Oliver told him. Lazy in that it was easier to be a bastard than it had been to be nice. Being nice, he was beginning to understand, was a lot more difficult than he ever thought it had been. With this newfound revelation, he was also beginning to respect his uncle a great deal more. He wasn’t just nice, though he was, even when it was hard to be nice to someone like he’d been to Lyle all these years.

Lyle knew now that he would have just cut Uncle Oliver out of his life if he’d been in his shoes. But Uncle Oliver hadn’t ever done that. Even now, he was taking him under his wing and making sure that he had everything he needed while in the hospital. Lyle knew for a fact that his mom wouldn’t have done squat for him. Not even with him being her son would she have bothered if she could shove it off on someone else. The phone ringing by his bedside only meant one thing—his mother, grandmother, or both were coming to see him. When Gracie and Uncle Oliver left him there, without a single trace of them ever being there, he felt his heartbreak just a little. Lyle didn’t want his other relatives there with him. He wanted his uncle and Gracie. He put his homework under the table they put his meds on and closed up the computer. Putting it under his pillow, he was careful of moving too. He wasn’t going to go home with them anytime soon, but he didn’t want them to think he was healing more either. “There you are. Are you going to stay awake for a little while this time, dumbass? I swear to you, Lyle, I think they know when we’re coming up to see you and dope you up. Have they told you where you’re going after you leave here?” His mom sat on the side of his bed, smashing part of his leg with her hip. It pulled all the stitches in his leg like a chain saw going up and down him. Yelling for her to get off him, she smacked him on the chest. “Don’t you dare talk to me like that. What is wrong with you?” Before he could tell her that she was hurting him, the nurse came in. “I heard you yelling, Lyle. Is there—? Get off that bed. Are you trying to send him back to surgery? The young man has stitches all over his body, and I’m sure that you’re pulling at them.” Mom got up off the bed, and Lyle hurt. He’d been feeling better, but now he hurt. “Want something for pain, Lyle? You can have it now.”

“Yes.” Mom told her no. She had to talk to him. “Please. She hurt me. I really hurt right now. Can you hurry?” The nurse glared at his mom and left to get his meds. Blood was starting to seep into the sheet above his leg. Even his belly, where he only had a few stitches and a huge bruise, was staining now. Lyle thought that he was going to be sick before the medication made it to him. “What are you doing? I told you no, Lyle. She’s not going to give it to you until I have some answers. Where are you going after this is finished? You can’t come home. I have too much shit going on as it is. Also, the bank is doing something with our money, and I have to go there and get that straightened out. They’ve seized my accounts. What did you tell them?” Lyle asked her what she meant, crying with the pain in his legs. “Well, I certainly didn’t tell them that they needed to do that. And Mom is having the same trouble.” He almost asked them if they’d gotten a letter about two weeks ago, but didn’t. Lyle didn’t want them to know that his uncle had been talking about it before. When the nurse came in with his much-needed meds, she ignored his mom all together. He was sicker now with it, and as soon as the pain medication hit his system, he curled up in his blankets and closed his eyes.

His mom wasn’t nice. Lyle wasn’t just figuring that out, but it was coming home to him more and more. He supposed that finally realizing how bad his mom was had something to do with actually getting to hang out with nice people. And Grandma was the worst. She’d kill an animal if she thought it would make people upset with her. Like she fed on people not liking her. When sleep took him under, he heard his mom yelling at him to stay awake. He decided that he no longer wanted to be with her. Lyle was going to do something, anything, to make sure he got to be with his uncle. He really did want to be a better person. ~*~ Gracie saw Sunshine leave Lyle’s room. While she didn’t look happy about the turn of events, Sunshine did smile at the nurse that had left the room ahead of her. Even from where she was hiding, in an empty room they had set up for them to work from, she could hear the conversation. “When I tell you no, he will not have pain medication, you will not be giving it to him. Do you understand me? I’m his mother.” The nurse nodded and smiled back. “I’m glad that we have that cleared up. I will not pay for anything more for him to have, either. You have to take care of him, but he’s only to get what I approve of. If you’re going to be passing out drugs like they’re free, then you can hand them over to me, and I’ll give them to him when I see fit.” “That’s going to happen about as quickly as I turn over my savings account to you. Also, you know now that I’m his nurse, and I know his pain and his threshold better than you do. If he wants pain medications given to him, I will knock you on your ass to give them to him.” Grace had to stifle a laugh. “Also, you should know that while he’s under the care of this floor, we will bend over backward to make sure that his health and getting himself better far outweighs whatever it is you want. He’s a child who has come back from an accident that might well have killed a lesser person. He’s a good kid. You should know that too.” “He’s not a good kid. I don’t want him to be either. He’s just the way I raised him to be.

Someone that can make it in this world.” Sunshine looked at the other nurses there. “You try and change him, bitch, and I will have your job.” “You can’t even do your job of being a good mother. I doubt very much that you have the balls to even do my job for an hour. You don’t worry me.” The nurse pulled a file up from the desk. “These are the names of the places we’ve found that will take Lyle while he recuperates. You have to sign off on each of them, giving permission for us to send him there or not. There is only one that is free, as you requested us to look for.” “That’s where he’ll go then.” The paperwork was handed to her, and the nurse, she thought her name was Sara, told her what each of the others would cost her. “This one is completely free? You’re sure about that? I don’t want them coming to me when they find out that I have money for their hand out.” “No. It’s free. Everything is included, including his medications and the night nurse.” Grace wondered about that place. She only hoped it would take care of Lyle and not just do it for the drugs that would be there for him to use.

“You have to read it over and sign it, Ms. Graham.” “I’m not going to read that whole thing. Just tell me where to sign it so that I can get out of here. This place smells terrible. You should put some scented candles around or something. It stinks here.” Sunshine signed the paperwork then dropped the pen she’d been handed on the floor. “Oops. I guess I dropped it.” Then in an act of meanness, she crushed the ink pen with her foot. Grace could not believe that this woman was related to her boss and that child in the other room. There had to have been a mix-up at the hospital or something when Oliver was born. That was all she could figure had happened. When she left, Sara turned and looked where she was standing. Smiling at her, Sara brought the paperwork to her. She asked to see Oliver. “He’s left, I’m afraid. Is there anything I can do for you?” Sara just handed her the paperwork. “I’ll make sure that he gets this first thing. Before I forget, Oliver ordered dinner for the staff here to be brought in. Also, for the other two shifts. It should be here around six. I hope that’s all right.” “Perfect. You two have been very nice to us.” She looked toward where Sunshine had been, then back at her. “I can’t believe she’d hurt her son, then try and deny him anything for the pain. If I were in there and in his shape, I’d want medication dripping into me all the time. He’s doing well with managing his pain. The paperwork there says that Oliver can keep Lyle while he’s recuperating. I had the cameras pointed at us in the event she found out and tried to say I didn’t tell her about reading it over.

It was a good idea that your boss had.” “Oliver is a very smart businessman. It’s no wonder that he knows how to get things going in a good direction. About the medications—he told Lyle that it will do him no good to stop taking the medication so that he doesn’t get addicted to it if he’s in constant pain all the time. He explained to him keeping the pain at bay but not gone will make it easier, as well as him using less of it if he doesn’t wait too long to take it.” Sara said that was good advice. “Oliver asked me to find out if you need anything. Not just for the staff, but anything for the floor. He has noticed that you’re running short on some of your office supplies, as well as that your breakroom could use a few extras.” “Water would be wonderful. I know that is a lot to ask for, but we can always use bottled water. We drink it ourselves, and when there are people here visiting, we give it to them as well.” Grace made a mental note about that. “You tell Oliver that he’s a good man. And that we appreciate him helping us out.” “I will. Thank you for taking such good care of his nephew too.” When Sara left her, Grace made her way to the breakroom that they’d been using as well. It was filled twice a week, but she was sure that they could use a few more things in it. Grace made note that there didn’t seem to be a refrigerator in the room that would hold much. The small one they had, like the ones people used in colleges, didn’t hold all that much. She also looked around at the two little tables and one chair. Grace wondered if all the rooms the nursing staff had to use for breaks were like this one.

“Hello, Grace.” She turned around when she saw a well-dressed man standing behind her. It took her mind a minute to make out who it was. It was Jake Winslow. “I had a couple of questions for Oliver, but I’m to understand that he’s left. Perhaps you can answer them?” “I can try.” They headed back to the little office set up that they’d been using. “He’s gone out to make sure that two places he’s looking at are all right for a business that he’s working on. Things are so much cheaper here than they are in London, I think. Then there is all the work going—” “Grace. Calm down.” She had been talking fast, something that she did when she was very nervous. “Tell me what has you so worked up. Maybe I can help you with that too.” “I’m not sure. Sunshine, a terrible name for a person like her, just left. She hurt Lyle, the nurse told me, and wanted to deny him pain medications.” He asked her how she’d done it. “I’m not sure. I just overheard the nurse telling Sunshine that he could have the pain medications whenever he wanted them. I didn’t think to ask. Also, I talked to Oliver about my part in him getting hurt. He knew already.” When she started to cry, it was just too much—he held her. These men, all of them, were the nicest people she’d been around. They’d been by several times in the last few days to watch Lyle so that she could go home and get cleaned up. A couple of them had even taken her out to dinner so that she didn’t have to eat brought in food all the time. When she apologized for crying all over him, Jake told her that he was there for her. Nodding, she did feel better and started again on what she’d been doing. He sat in one of the chairs that Oliver had brought in and acted like he was there for a long stay.

She particularly liked Jake and Forrest out of all of the others. They were calmer and calming to be around. “The houses here are much better priced. Younger, too, than anything that Oliver had been looking at. London is a lovely place to live, but I think I like the States so much better.” She looked at him when he agreed. “My family isn’t safe from his family. I thought I had it covered, but I realized that people who want something, people like the Moodys and the Grahams, will go to great lengths to make sure you realize that they’re going to hurt you no matter what.” “Yes, that’s about right. In my experience, they usually get caught in the end, but they hurt so many in the process. What were you doing in the break room just a moment ago?” She told him what Oliver had asked her to do. “So you think they need something bigger in the way of a fridge too? I can see that. And thinking of the other stations was nice of you. You figure out what they need per area, and we’ll go in with Oliver to make it happen. We donate a great deal to the hospital, and this will be something that just the nurses can enjoy.” “I don’t know if Oliver will think it’s a good idea yet,” Jake told her that he would agree with her. “They said that they needed water. I don’t know why, but I think they don’t mean a twenty-four pack. What do you think it would cost to bring in truckloads of water?”

“Good question. I’ll find out. That is a brilliant idea. Keeping them hydrated all the time will keep them healthy too. That much water wouldn’t be stored in the rooms, but I’m betting that we can find a place to store it so that they can get it when they need it.” Embarrassed to be praised so highly, she turned her back to him. “Something else you might want to add to your list you’re making is snacks. When we were in here a few weeks ago when one of our clients was hurt, they only had graham crackers. I think having a bowl of fruit delivered daily might be just the ticket. You know, apples and oranges and the like.” She added things to her list as they talked. Twice she asked him if he wanted her to call Oliver, but he told her he was just enjoying talking to her. Jake was a wonderful person. She was glad that he was nice enough just to hang out with her for a time. Someone else to talk to made her lifeless boring right now.

Matthew House Of Wilkshire Release Blitz & Giveaway

Matthew St. James was the Earl of Green Gables, and Lord of Lilac Castle. A dragon of great title and magic, but little wealth. Only one other knew what his true dragon was, and Devon, King of the Dragons, wasn’t telling anyone.

Aisling was a rare white warrior dragon. She had been in slumber several hundred years, healing from a near-fatal blow in a great war. She felt betrayed when, Dak, her personal faerie, had been sharing information about her with Lord Connor. Now, she had to go talk to him to determine what kind of payment he would extract from her for his protection while she slept. She had no coin. Not knowing what type of payment he would demand from her had her heart twisted in torment.

Aisling didn’t trust anyone. Too many had betrayed her. And when she refused to speak with the king, Devon ordered her to go to his castle. He would make her listen to reason.

Matt arrived at the castle before Devon, but what he wasn’t expecting to find was his mate. And because of his title, he couldn’t get her to rise from groveling on the ground at his feet to even talk to her. When his dragon realized his mate was in front of him, the Earth dragon bypassed the man and bonded with the white dragon. The joining was both painful and spectacular. In pain, Aisling’s dragon, no longer white, took flight.

When Matt finally found her, Aisling was no longer timid. She was mad as hell and out for blood.

 

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18+ Erotic Shapeshifter Romance, fantasy romance, paranormal fantasy

Kelly Dalton, was packed and ready to go on the trip of a lifetime. She was excited to spend a month in Europe sightseeing. Her budget would be tight, and she’d have to make the trip alone because her sister drained her checking account, but despite the lack of funds, Kelly was ready for the new adventure—anything to get away from her family.

Devon Wakefield was the tenth Marquess to the house of Wilkshire and a dragon shifter. Since the death of his father, he had been lord of the castle since he was ten. His life lacked only one thing—a mate—but he was in no hurry to find one.

Kelly was sorry to see her vacation end. One more stroll around the beautiful countryside then she’d have to go back home—to what she didn’t know. Her sister, Rachel, was so angry that Kelly didn’t pay for her trip that she set fire to Kelly’s apartment. There was nothing really to go back to, but she’d deal with that when she returned. In the meantime, she would enjoy her last couple of days in England. However, Kelly was unprepared for the sudden rain shower, and in the rushing water she lost her footing. Everything went black…

Distraught because Kelly was missing, the innkeeper called Devon to find her. When Devon found the injured young woman, he realized that he’d found his mate, and in an effort to ease her recovery he wanted to do something nice for her—he brought her family to England….

 

Noah Farley had been living in the States for a long time, and he was homesick. When Devon invited him to come home for a visit, he packed up everything he had and wasn’t planning on returning to his home in the city anytime soon, if ever. His dragon needed room to roam, and the city left his options too limited.

Bea Frost had made the buy of a lifetime, a castle in the country, and she made plans with her granddaughter Bryce, and daughter-in-law Laura, to move into it. Both Bea and Bryce were witches, and moving away from their current location, away from the Witches Council, would be like a breath of fresh air.

Noah’s family had lost the castle to back taxes before they had died. Its loss didn’t leave him much to go home to, but he was curious as to who had purchased the property. When he met Bryce, he was both surprised and pleased to find out that she was his mate. Bryce, however, didn’t care for dragons and wasn’t shy about letting him know that either.

The Witches Council consisted of three warlocks, Black, White, and Gray. When appointed, the mix was supposed to balance them out, but instead the men had become evil and corrupt. Bryce had become too powerful, more powerful than the council combined, and the WC considered her a threat. Killing her human mother or new mate would be just the ticket to bring her to heal…

Jackson William hadn’t seen his father in centuries. Now his father was dead, he was now king, and the dragon council wanted to hold him responsible for his father’s crimes? And there had been many. The truth would be his salvation. Nicole needed a job. A job that would put a roof over her head as well. She hadn’t had a decent meal in a week. But the ad didn’t say there were fairies and witches. Where there were faeries, there were dragons and Nicole was petrified of them. And with good reason. The poison from the dragon bites flowing through Nicole’s veins left her weak and in a lot of pain. She was a mere human, and her body’s inability to heal from the bites left her vulnerable to new dragon attacks. Now this dragon, Jackson, was claiming to be her mate? Would this nightmare never end?

 

Connor James was having a blast remodeling the old mansion, but he didn’t care for curtains, and his friends’ mates were giving him hell for it. Connor loved every minute of it.

Since acquiring the mansion, Connor was having a time dealing with the ghosts remaining in the home. He was able to see and speak with spirits and made it so anyone who entered his home could do so as well.

Roxanna Hornsby, also known as Rocky, was alone in the world and living in near poverty. Dealing with the dead was her burden to bear and she wasn’t known for being pleasant about it.

Roxanna knew some of her magical heritage, but most of the memory had been blocked from her to keep her safe. And when her grandmother came to her in her dream, the memories came flooding back. Roxanna was so much more than any of them thought.

 

 

House of Wilkshire Series

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Matt walked through the new house three times. He was alone this last time, and he was glad for it. Having someone pointing out all the things that he could see was annoying at best. Stupid too. He could see deeper into anything that was going on here than the dumb woman that had been assigned to show him the place. It had taken him nearly an hour to get her out of the place so that he could feel it for himself. There are several things that I need to let you know about before I leave you to it. He smiled at Kelly as she spoke to him through their connection. This is not what I have to tell you, but I should like to mention how happy I am that you got rid of that woman. Christ, she was getting on my nerves, and I wasn’t around her. Okay, what I need to tell you. I’ve spoken to Bryce, and she said to tell you that the house has been warded. You’re safe there. Second thing, you need to know that your brother is still hanging his ass around. He’s staying at one of the old hotels out on Route Forty. It’s a place with a roof over his head and little else. As you’re aware, I’ve sent a faerie, Beta, to be with him to keep an eye on him. So far, she’s only had to teach him a lesson in being respectful to her once. He got the picture—I think, anyway. It’s doubtful, but you never know. I wanted to let you know that I’ve also spoken to my father. He said that he’d tell Rolland’s mother about his antics. Julia wants nothing to do with him. I guess it’s safe to assume that he burnt those bridges a long time ago. However, I did tell them to be extra careful when they return home. There is no telling what Rolland might have set up for them. She told him that was a great idea. I have them on occasion. About this house— I’d like to keep it. I can fill it out on my own, so there is no need for anything you offered us.

Good to know. Cole is looking his house over now. I made it so that he could do it alone after getting a hint about the woman with you. I don’t mean to be rude, but what kind of dragon are you? Devon told me that I would have to ask you. That it was something he couldn’t share unless he spoke to you. I figured it had to be good or he would have shared. He didn’t want to tell her but told her that if she were face to face with him, he’d show her. That bad, huh? Okay. I’m out and about today, so perhaps tomorrow. What can I bring tonight when we all show up for dinner? You’re all showing up here for dinner? She laughed when he did. I don’t know what we’ll have, so I’ll have to think about it. Just tell everyone that it will be a cookout. That’s about all I can handle here. Also, I have my own faeries with me. I want you to know that so that if you have any extras needing work, I can take them on, but I don’t really need them full time. Okay. I know that Cole only has his own personal faeries, so I can send them on to him. You have a cook too, I’m thinking? He said that he did. All manner of workers. Good. I’m glad to know that. So, tonight is all right with you? Then tomorrow night, we’ll hit up Cole. He’s not as magical as you are if you can fill out your home. It’s doubtful that many are as magically inclined as I am, my dear queen. She whistled, and he had to laugh. All right. I need to flush out my home here before you all arrive and drive me insane. I don’t suppose that you know if my mate is around, do you? I mean, you all seem to have everything down pat all ready for us.

No. Not that I’m aware of. But then, I could have been around her for a month and had no idea that she was your mate. He told her that she’d not been. He would have smelled her on her. That is sort of gross, don’t you think? I mean, what could I have been doing that I would smell like your mate? Nothing, I tell you. But then, I’m new to this dragon mate stuff. It’s kind of scary when you think about anything that could have befallen a mate before the other half found them. Don’t you think? Yes, I do. He actually thought of that more than once a day, whether his mate was out there still. Was she all right? Things that made him think that at some point along the line, she would have been dealt a deadly blow, and was now nothing more than dust in the ground. Such a morbid thought, he told himself. I do have to go, my dear. Thank Bryce for me about the house being safe. I shall now let my faeries roam free. The house was perfect for him. There were plenty of bedrooms should he want to have his family stay over. A kitchen that as his dragon, he could cook in it if he wanted. Not to mention he had plenty enough yard that he could stretch out as his dragon and not be bothered by cars, or even trees. There were plenty of those as well. Trees and the ground were a part of him, and he sorely needed them. Freeing his faeries, he was happy to see that they had all arrived with him safely at Devon’s home and were now free to make this house theirs, as well as his. They had, as most faeries of dragons could do, become a part of him. They were like tats over his body that, once he freed them, would leave him with nary a mark on his body other than the one that covered his back. That one was there until he died, which wouldn’t happen anytime too soon, he figured.

Gathering the thousands around him that had been a part of him, he had them listen to him this one time as a group. It wasn’t often that he had to make rules for them to follow. But until such a time that the others were aware of what he was, he didn’t want his faeries to get into trouble that would cost him anything. Being broke was something that he was used to. If he had to make restitution to Devon over something that they did, then he’d have to sell a part of himself. He’d done it before, sold off a small part of himself—a hair that was along his back, a pint of the liquid that kept him in wings. Being what he was, a dragon of some worth, he could do that and not miss anything. However, he didn’t want to have to do it if he didn’t need to. Matt made sure that his family, the group of faeries that he’d had since birth, understood that. “We have a chance to make ourselves a new start here. I don’t want to have to run out of town to keep any of us safe. All right?” They nodded to him, some of them apologizing for the trouble they thought had made it so that they’d had to leave before. “None of you are responsible for what Rolland has done to us. Not one of you. But know this. He is not welcome here. He is not to come here for any reason. If he tells you differently or that we have made up, then you are not to believe him. He is a liar and will say and do anything to harm me. But mostly you. He will tear your wings off just to be able to say that he has. Understand?” Honey came to stand on his shoulder. She was his faerie to call, and Matt knew that she’d be the one that would find him if anything were to happen. The other faeries

would seek her out faster than they would Matt if there were other problems to be taken care of. Only because of all the faeries that were there, Honey understood more than most of them did. About nearly everything. “I will need a staff of outdoorsmen to keep the grounds in shape.” As Honey made groups of their staff assignments, he thought about the rooms that he’d been in and filled them out. When he had all but two of the rooms finished, Honey said his name. “Master, there are a few that wish to be your cooking staff. I haven’t any idea what that might mean for this household.” “There are other dragons around, including the king and queen of us all. They will show up at a moment’s notice and wish for food. Someone in the kitchen needs to be able to handle that without causing trouble.” Two of the six stepped forward. “Also, and this is very important—someone will need to be able to order foodstuff from the locals and deal with them when it comes to money that they use. We won’t be making things from magic unless funds are too low. I have a home now, so I can give you what I produce in the way of gems, but you know as well as I that it is more difficult than for a regular dragon to sell off for cash what I have in the way of gems.” The one that moved forward again was Honey’s mate, Billows. He would be their cook. Matt welcomed him to the household. And just as he thought he would, Billows asked the other man to be his second. Faeries were a wonderful group—at least his were. They didn’t lord tasks that they were given by the dragons over each other. If they were offered a job, as Billows had been, then they would be sure to give as many of the others that had wanted the job a way to work in the area.

Billows would train his second, Tinsel, on how to deal with the humans around and how to count out money. By the time there was a need for someone else to have a faerie in their kitchen, then Tinsel would be their pick because of his training. Matt made sure that no one was without means to keep themselves busy. Busy faeries were less likely to get themselves into trouble. Matt did another turn around the bedrooms of his home. The master bedroom was large enough for a man his size. He was taller than most of the dragons around, with the exception of Devon, so his dragon was larger too. Also, and no one but his faeries knew this, Matt was able to call forth things that even Devon was unable to do. Now that he had his own home, he was going to make use of that magic for all those around him. “These rooms are well done, my lord. You have chosen colors that are of the earth. Your magic will have many guests happy when they stay for a time that won’t even understand the reason for it.” Matt told Honey that he wanted to keep it that way. “I have set up a time for the lady Kelly to come and speak to you. She has sent her own faerie here to set a time. Are you going to tell her everything?” “I was thinking that I should tell them all. With us living here, it might be better if more people knew what I was rather than being blindsided by someone looking for me. Not that there are many people around anymore that would know what I was, but you never know about humans.”

Honey said that was correct. “Honey, now that you know what I want in the way of the house, would you finish it up for me? I will add the magic to the rooms later. For now, I’d like to have a look around the yard to see if there are any improvements I can do with that.” “Yes, my lord. Also, you should talk to Lord Connor. He is working on a project now that I think you should be aware of. He has not told anyone of it as far as I know, except the faerie Dak that he smells of.” Matt nodded and started toward the door before he was stopped again by Honey. “My lord, your brother, he is going to be causing trouble again if I do not miss my bet. What would you like done with him? It is well past time that he is dealt with by one of my kind.” “I know, Honey. You have no idea how glad I am that you haven’t done anything. I will deal with him soon enough. We are among friends here, and I would prefer that we get their input on him rather than just taking care of him on our own. Killing him would be the best for you, I’m aware of this. However, with us being with the king of our kind, we’ll need to make sure that he’s not only aware of the things that Rolland has done to faeries, but also the harm that he’s caused to our kind. Everyone has been touched by his deeds. It’s only fair that everyone has a say in what he faces from each of them when the time comes. Also, my father and his wife are going to be arriving soon, I would imagine. I would like for them to know if they’re not aware already, what he’s done since they got married.” “Yes. You are correct. You are a wise dragon, my lord. And a kind one.

I do hope that you are correct in your trust in the others about what you are.” He didn’t voice it, but he hoped so as well. “I shall take care that the rest of the house is finished. Also, I will take care that the other faeries—there are a great many of them—are aware that we’re here. I do not wish for them to get jealous of how we are treated over them.” He didn’t tell her that the other faeries were treated as well, if not better than his were. While they weren’t a jealous lot, any of them, they did think that he was the best master that had ever been born. He liked them thinking that, but he knew that it was far from the truth. There had to be one or two others that were better than he was. ~*~ Aisling was waiting on Dak. When he returned, she was going to have to have a long-overdue conversation with him. She needed some answers, and in order to get them, she was going to have to order her friend to tell her. If he’d been honest with her from the start, she wouldn’t have to go to such extremes. But now, as they were near enough to the king to seek him out, she needed to know who it was that he was talking to. As soon as he entered her domain, nothing more than a hovel that she’d transformed into a home for them, she could tell that he had more information than he’d had when he left. “My lady? I had no idea that you’d be awake so soon. I should have been here for you.” She only nodded. “Something is amiss? I shall help you with it. Whatever it is, I’m sure that the two of us can take care of it.” “Who is it that you’re talking to?” He said that he was speaking to her, acting this time instead of being confused for real. “Who else, Dak? Who is the dragon that you go to speak to when you think me sleeping?

Is it the king? Are you telling him things about me that I wish you hadn’t?” “No, my lady. I’d never do that to you. I have the papers that are carrying your reviews. They have them on the front page. You are quite the star now.” She wanted to put aside her questions to see her name in print again, but he needed to give her what she wanted. Again, she asked him who he was seeing. “His name is Lord Connor James, Prince to the Castle Hillcrest, Dragon of Hillcrest Castle. He has been the one that is helping you come to see the king.” “How is it that he knew of us? You have been going behind my back, Dak. I do not care for the way you have deceived me.” He bowed before her, his wings spread out behind him and trembling. “What did you do to make him aware of me?” “He came upon us while you were resting so many decades ago. You had only been healing for a short time when he came into the cave to rest himself.” Aisling told him to stand up and to finish. “Lord Connor knew what you were when he came upon you. I could no more turn him away than I could have you, my lady. He watched over the two of us until you woke. Lord Connor also made sure that I was fed and cared for, and that you were never close to dying again, as you were when we entered the cave you were in.” “Did he heal me?” Dak told her what he’d done. “So he protected me so that no others were to come upon my body while I healed. How much will he demand of me, Dak? He will want more than I can give him, of this I’m sure.” “Nay. He knew that you were an untried female dragon. He knew too that you were white, even though you were covered in darkness to hide you away from others.” She asked what he wanted. “Nothing, he told me. For, he told me, all dragons are special. But for a female such as yourself, there is no greater gift to someone than to have you taken care of so that you were never harmed.

He has been true to his word in all this time. It is his card that you use when we eat.” “I will pay him back.” Dak said nothing. “What else has he done? Has he made it so that my reviews are taken by the newspaper? Did he fix it so that even though they are crap, someone prints them and pays us for them? I shall never do another—” “Nay, my lady. Never that. The king was kind enough to help you with the name. After that, Lord Connor told me that you were on your own. I had to ask him what he meant by that. But you got the job because you were good at what you did. Lord Connor only—how did he put that? Ah. He said that he only opened the door for you so that you could enter the job. You closed the door behind you when you were able to impress with your and my words. He was very good at doing that for you. Was he not?” She didn’t say anything to him. “You should know that I have also been delaying your meeting with the king. Lord Connor didn’t know why, but he said that you must only come to meet the king when the snow was on the ground for good.” “And he had no reason for this? That I was only to arrive in the snow?” Dak told her that was what he said. “So this Lord Connor, he can see my future. What else did he tell you about me coming there?”

“Nothing. He only can see some of your future, but not all. He only knew that it would be best for you to arrive when the snow was on the ground for a while.” Dak smiled at her. “It is time.” “Does the king even have a child?” He said that he did. There were many hatchlings around the kingdom. “I don’t know what to believe of you now, Dak. You have betrayed me to another dragon. What if he has it in his head to make me a part of his household? A dragon of his own?” “I don’t think he’d do that. I have seen his mate. She is a beauty, much like you are, but she is scary protective of her mate. You could never get close enough to either of them with any ill intentions in your mind.” She thought that was at least good. “Not that you have such intentions, but she will not be happy if you were to be a part of the household for any reason.” “You still hurt my heart with what you were doing. I knew that you were seeing someone about what we were doing. But it only just occurred to me what else you might be doing since you seemed to have no problem talking to others behind my back.”

He said that he’d never betray her. “But you have. Haven’t you? You have been telling me stories about how you were finding things out when you were going to someone else to get the answers. I suppose that he’s been paying our way since I woke.” “He has.” She stomped her way around the room, madder now than she was before she began this talk with him. “My lady. I never meant to hurt you about this. It was only my intention to make sure that you were safe.” “I don’t feel safe now.” She was hurting him, she knew, but he’d been doing things behind her back and taking the credit for what another person came up with. “I feel as if I shouldn’t have trusted you, Dak. How should that make me feel when you’ve lied to me from the beginning?” “I’ve no answers, my lady.” She stopped pacing and turned to look at him. “I will do whatever you wish to make this right to you. Whatever it is. Even if you were to tell me that you no longer wish for me to serve you. I don’t want that, ever, but I can understand if you were to wish it to be so.” “I only wanted to ask you about this man, and now I’m finding out that not only has he known about me since I woke, but he has been keeping an eye on me since I was hurt in war. You could not have found a time to have told me before? Why did I have to confront you on this now?” He said that Lord Connor wanted to meet her. “So that he might extract payment from me? I have nothing to offer him but myself. I don’t even have my first true job, because you have gone behind my back and had him open doors for me to get it.” “You got it on your own merit.” She snorted at Dak. “I promise you, my lady. Neither of us made him give you the job. You did that on your own with your own hard work.” “I don’t know what to believe.” She didn’t either. This was much worse than she had thought it would be. Aisling had only wanted to know what dragon he was seeing, but now it turned out that he had been caring for her for a while, a long while, and she had no other choice but to throw herself at his mercy and ask him not to take more than she had as payment.

“He will make sure that I am a slave to him forever. You are aware of this, are you not?” “I don’t think he will. My lady, Lord Connor, is a good man. He is happy to help you.” She didn’t say anything else to him. Her heart really did hurt for him not telling her when she’d first woken up. “He has asked to speak to you this night. We are going to try out the restaurant that is just near here. I have arranged it so that he can tell you all that you need to know.” “And what is it that he feels I need to know? That I have been sold to someone of his acquaintance? That I will be butchered into pieces so that witches and others can have some of my magic? I don’t know this man. And to be honest with you, Dak, I feel as if I don’t know you either.” He nodded and sat down on the table that he’d been hovering over. “I don’t know what to do about us. I will have to talk to this dragon and find out what he wishes of me. To me, it feels as if you have sold me to someone else. You will stay with me, please. However, if you have plans to go to meet up with this dragon again, I will quit you. I wish for you to tell me when you are to leave to talk to him about me.” “I will stay with you until you find another that you can trust.” She didn’t tell him that wasn’t what she wanted. But right now, she was hurting too—hurting about all the things he’d kept from her. “You will come to know that I never meant you any harm, my lady. I meant only to keep you safe, as did Lord Connor. You are only that because he has made it so. The job and the things that you are thinking of now are only on you.

He would never sell you off. Lord Connor wouldn’t do anything like that to you or to any other female such as yourself. This, I will stake my life on.” “I just hope that you have not staked my life on what you believe to be true. All I wanted, Dak, was for you to be honest with me. To not lie to me about what was going on. But not only did you know that I was being protected by another dragon, but you also helped him to keep me. To have me indebted to him. You know as well as I that I had only just been able to break the bonds that my mother had put me in. It nearly cost me my life. Now I find out that you have perhaps done the same to me. Put me in a position that I know nothing about, nor can I do anything about it.” “I understand, my lady. And I am deeply sorry for the trouble I might well have caused you. And for the trust you no longer have for me.” He fluttered over the table for a moment before he spoke again. “I shall meet you at the restaurant at six. Lord Connor will join you at half-past six with his mate. I will only join them if you were to call for me. I have, as you have pointed out, harmed you by not telling you all the truth.” “Is there anything else I should know about? Something else that you’re not telling me?” He asked her what she meant. “A mate? Have you and this dragon conspired to give me to a male as his bedmate? It is something that I would like to know now.” “No, my lady. I have never conversed with him about such a thing for you. However, I will say that anyone that takes you as a mate will be able to count himself lucky to have a female such as yourself.” She had nothing to say to him about that. “I shall go to him now to tell him that you are willing to meet him at the place you are working tonight.”

After he left, she sat down in the chair she’d been sitting in while waiting for him to return. Her heart was broken. Not just for the things that he’d done to her, but also the things that had come between them. It had not been her intention to break them apart. But she’d not known of half the things he’d confessed to her. Aisling looked at the things she’d gotten when she’d started running her articles about places to eat. The newspaper people had sent her a lovely letter with her first check, telling her that people were excited about her next place. He was also pleased that she was moving around the country and telling people about places that weren’t chain places—something that she’d had to look up—but little mom and pop places— another term she’d had to research the meaning for—and giving her reviews about their places. Since she’d noticed after the first week that Dak was seeing another dragon, she had been keeping records of what she would owe someone. It was costing her more than she had made on her first check. Much, much more. “Mayhap I shouldn’t have been so hard on him.” She had been very hard on her only friend, and it hurt her that she’d been so. “But he should have allowed me to know of what was going on behind my back. For him to have known so much and not told me scared me more than I could have thought.” Aisling could also feel dangers coming her way. Her mother for one; another was a being that she wasn’t known to. What they were up to, she didn’t know, but the second creature wasn’t going to fare well if he tried anything on her. She could show no compassion for anything right now.

Gannon Release Blitz & Gieaway

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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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….

 

 

 

 

 

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 pin 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 was 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….

 

 

Lucian https://amzn.to/2V5qhib

Josiah  https://amzn.to/2SyOLzG
Gannon  https://amzn.to/2WsiyxT

 

 

 

 

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“Aunt Mel, can you show me how to use these things?” Mel looked back at her niece and saw that she was holding something that shouldn’t be held by an eight-year-old. “It looks like something I saw in a movie one time. They chopped off a man’s head with it. It rolled right over to the kids, too. Teenagers are stupid, I think.” “You might be right on that. But if you don’t put that cut off tool down, we’re going to have a problem. I don’t mean you and me, but your daddy and me. Just lay it back on the big machine there, and I’ll answer your questions about it.” When she put it atop her laser cutter, Mel smiled at her. “Your daddy was a dork when he was a teenager. Not me. I was the perfect picture of a child, and I never got into any trouble.” “Bull hockey.” She’d seen Daniel standing behind Mary, and had said that to get him breathing again. “Mary, what have I told you, repeatedly, about picking up tools out here when Mel is working?” “You said that I should be more responsible than she is. But Daddy, Aunt Mel said that I can’t learn anything if I don’t get to touch, see, or even use something.” Mel laughed and looked at her brother. “She’s very smart about her tools too. Aunt Mel told me that if I picked anything up, it had better be unplugged and have the safety on the plug. I looked before picking it up. I promise.” “Yes, well, I didn’t see that.” Daniel kissed her on the cheek as he sent Mary into the house for lunch. “Are you staying for lunch?” “Are you having anything besides fu-fu food? Like meat and potatoes?” He said that they were having a salad with salmon on it.

“Fu-fu food. Why can’t you have a burger with something like potato salad or French fries like normal people?” “I’m trying to instill good eating habits in my children. Unlike their aunt has. Did you really get them to try anchovies, Mel? I swear to you, you’re a bad influence on all three of them.” She just stared at him. “I was joking. I feed them healthy meals so that when you’re in charge of them, they can have whatever junk food you give them to balance it out.” “We rarely eat junk food, as you call it when they’re with me. The night that they came to spend the weekend with me, we had a nice big healthy bowl of popcorn with hot pepper powder all over it, and no butter.” Daniel just shook his head. “When are you leaving to go to the McCray’s? I’m sorry that I can’t go with you.” “No, you’re not sorry. You’re thrilled to have to stay here cooped up in this building working. Speaking of that, I told Demi that you weren’t coming, and she said that if you weren’t with us when we arrived, she was coming for you.” Mel just pulled the welder mask over her face and turned on the soldering iron to use. “I know you can hear me still, Mel. I don’t think I’d mess with this family about this. They’re going to get us out of debt with what they’ve asked us to do. Especially you.” “I’m paying things off, Daniel.” She pulled the mask up and put her equipment down to turn to him. “I love you dearly, I really do. Your children mean everything to me. I would…. I think that I’m only alive because of the four of you. But I will tell you right now, I can’t do this much longer and remain sane right now, I can’t do this much longer and remain sane. It’s too much for me.

People terrify me.” When he pulled her to him for a hug, she went to him willingly. But she was afraid that he realized that she wasn’t hugging him back. It was difficult to have people hug her. Much harder for her to hug them back. “Mel, I have a deal for you. And don’t turn me down before I ask you. You come with me for a couple of days—that’s all, just two of them. Then whenever you want them while I’m still there, you can come and get the kids and keep them for the entire weekend. All of them, if that’s what you want.” She looked up at him, suspicious of him giving her something that she wanted so desperately. “I promise you too; I won’t even put any restrictions on them. Including what you do with them and feed them.” “So, I can take them to the movies with me.” He asked her if she’d want to do that. “No. Never. But for them, I would. I’d do just about anything for them and with them if it made them love me.” “Oh, Mel, they love you right now. Even if you didn’t take them to places, or get them food that would melt a normal person. My kids have never thought of you as anything but their much-loved aunt. I promise you, honey. For as much as you love them, they love you that much, if not more.” She didn’t say anything but did lower her head. “You don’t believe me, do you?” “I know what I am, Daniel. I know, too, what I look like. I see people staring at me. Looking at me like I’m some sort of freak.

” Daniel, as he usually did, told her that wasn’t true. “Look at me, Daniel. My face is a mess.” “Melody Austin, you need to get yourself a better mirror if that’s all you see. You’re the most beautiful creature—woman—that I’ve ever seen. Well, except for Demi McCray. Did you see that woman? My goodness, I should have used her good looks when I was a kid to have as a wet dream.” She smacked him on the arm. “I’m joking. She’s scary, don’t you think?” “I don’t like her.” She pulled away from him and turned back to what she’d been doing. “She is scary, but she’s also nosey and rude. I don’t like the way she thinks that her shit doesn’t stink.” Mel reached into her pocket and put a buck in the cursing jar on her shelf. It wasn’t very full, not as full as she thought it would have been had there been someone out there with her at all times. They did it, mostly her, when there was someone around to hear it. If she’d had to put something in it when she was alone, she’d never be able to afford her rent, not to mention food. “When are you leaving?” He told her that they were going to a hotel in Vegas tonight, and leaving first thing in the morning. “I’ll have to meet you there then. I have to finish this door with the specs on it that Demi asked for before I leave here.” “Are you going to crap out on me?” She said that she’d let him know for sure before he left there. “I’m going to hold you to that. I’m also going to tell the kids the deal that we made. I know you well enough to know that you won’t be able to turn them down.”

“If you tell them, they’ll be out here for the rest of their time here. And that will only delay me getting finished. Up to you, but if I’m pestered too much by them, I won’t be there for a while.” He nodded and said he’d hold her to it. Mel looked at him. “You know what this is going to cost me, don’t you? You know that I’m going to be a mess the entire time that I’m there. I’m afraid, Daniel. Every time someone gets too close to me, I’m afraid that they’re going to hurt me.” “I know, honey. I know. I also know that you’ve yet to tell me what else happened that day. You getting shot and left for dead doesn’t explain your fear of people, nor the scarring on your face. I wish that you’d tell someone about it.” She turned away again. “Mel, you know that I’d never judge you or even tell you that you were anything but lucky to be alive.” “I know that. But why am I? Alive, I mean.” She tried to smile at him and knew that it came out as tight as it felt on her face. “Go away and leave me to it. The way it’s working now. I’m going to be another few hours getting caught up for Miss “I would like this on the door too, please.” “What is it you’re doing?” She knew what he was doing—changing the subject so that she’d not dwell too much on their conversation.

“She has some good ideas. I know you’ve had a lot of extra work cut out for it, but I think that her ideas are right up there with what you wanted. Did I tell you that they’ve gotten rid of the cafeteria idea? That was a smart idea you had with not having one.” “She only wants to butter me up by going with my idea so that I’ll change things around on the door,” Daniel asked her if she believed that. “No, but it’s a lot of extra work that she’s asking for after we gave her a quote for what the doors were going to cost.” “I never thought of that. Yeah, that is something that we’ll have to add to future contracts. That the deal is based on the doors that we show them at the time. Or we have to jack up the prices. How much longer is it going to take you to make the doors now?” She told him. “Christ, Mel, that’s a lot of time for each of the doors. Will it be all right with the pricing that we gave them?” “Yes. Mostly because I make the doors myself, I wonder if they know that. Not that it matters, but anyway, yes, I have the parts here to modify the other four that I have done, but if she keeps making me have to go back and redo them, it’s going to be cheaper for me to tell her to fuck off. Much more satisfying too.” They both laughed. “I can make it work. The extra three hours per door is going to go faster once I get the hang of putting it together. And you’re right, her ideas have been really good. This modification is to make sure that the deadbolt to the wall is longer than the standard size. I told her that I put in four inches now, and she wondered if there was a way to make them longer to lock into the frame. It’s a good idea, no busting the door in, but like I said, it’s costly in man-hours for me.” After he left her, Mel pulled her equipment back on and started working on the bolt. She had made it so that the door would lock into place when the alarm was triggered, but having the bolt longer and going through the entire width of the door, plus ten more inches into the wall, would make it safer for the kids.

Mel worked through lunch and dinner. Once in a while, one of the kids came out to ask her something. Mel always put down her work to talk to them. They would also shove something at her—a bottle of water, a granola bar, or something. Usually, she’d take a bite of one of those nasty things and toss it, but if they hung around, she’d have to finish it. Mel couldn’t stand food that was good for her. “Aunt Mel, I have something I need to talk to you about.” She looked at Holly when she sat on the stool where she was working and told her to ask away. “I’m sixteen now, and I was wondering if you would help me pick out a dress for the winter dance.” Everything in her seemed to freeze up. Winter dance meant they were getting the school ready. It meant that they would be decorating. Mel watched as she saw her niece’s lips move, but nothing was moving through the air to her ears. The sting to her face had her inhaling sharply, and her heart beating again. “Are you all right?” She looked at Dan, Daniel’s fourteen-year-old son, standing between her and Holly. “Aunt Mel, are you all right now? Christ loves a cat. You scared us to death.” “I’m all right. I just zoned out for a minute.” Dan just looked at her. “I’m fine. You have a nice slap there for a veggie eating man.” He laughed, just as she hoped that he would. Holly looked a little freaked out still, but she hugged them both. When she thought that she could speak again, she held them tighter so that they’d not see her face. “Don’t tell your dad. He thinks I’m perfect.” Holly hugged her tightly. “I’m sorry that I scared you. It was never my intention. But you guys know that I’m weird, right? I just got all caught up in thinking about things that I shouldn’t have.” “We love you, Aunt Mel.

We know that you hurt—even when you’re with us, we can see it.” She told them that she loved them as well and let them go. She looked at Holly when she took her hand into hers. It was everything that she could do not to take her hand back. “You’re the bravest person I know. You’ve done more since you were in the hospital than anyone ever did before. You’re making something that happened to you into something that will help others that could have been hurt the same way.” “Thank you.” Holly nodded, and then Dan hugged her again. When they both moved back, he told her that he was sorry he’d hit her. “It’s all right, Dan. I know that you were trying very hard to keep me from hyperventilating again. You did the right thing.” Daniel came out to tell them they were getting ready to go to the hotel. When he asked her if she was all right, Dan told her that his aunt was perfect. Daniel looked at her when the other two went into the house to finish loading stuff in the car. “I’ll be there in a couple of days at the most. But don’t try and talk me into staying more, Daniel. I’m doing this for you and no one else. All right?” He nodded and thanked her. “You might want to remember that if anything happens to me if I have a meltdown in front of our clients, I did try and warn you.” “I’ll remember. Thank you, Mel. I promise you, nothing will happen to you.”

She nodded and went back to work. She knew that he stood there for several minutes. Mel could feel him looking at her. But after a while, not only did he leave her, but he told her that he loved her. Not letting her tears blind her anymore, she wiped them off and started working. The sooner she got this done, the sooner she could see her nieces and nephew to bring them home with her. They would be the only thing, she knew, that would keep her from ending her fucking miserable life. ~*~ Gannon didn’t know who he was picking up other than the kids and maybe one or two adults. He thought it was a ploy to get him out of his home, but really, he was ready to hit the town running anyway. His list was finally complete enough that his house was starting to fill out around the edges. Which to him meant that he not only had towels so that he’d not have to wash one every day to use but sheets for all the beds, baking stuff if he was inclined to do that, as well as throw pillows that his mom had helped him pick out. The two couches that he ordered had been delivered yesterday. He was thrilled that the evening had been cold enough out that he was able to light a fire. It was both homey, he thought, as well as cozy. Gannon was loving the house more and more daily. When the plane landed, he stood there waiting for the family he was to pick up to disembark. It had frazzled him a little to know that not only did Demi have her own plane, but Meadow’s family had one as well. They were both so stinking rich that he felt intimidated every time he was around them when they were talking about what they had in the way of money. He saw the little girl first. Her name, if he remembered correctly, was Mary.

The other two, who he knew were Holly and Dan, got off next. They stood with their sister at the bottom of the stairs, waiting for the others to disembark. When the father came down the stairs, he was loaded down with bags, but Dan ran up the stairs of the plane and helped him down with them. Laughing as Dan handed each of his sisters something that he’d taken from his dad, Gannon thought that he could really like that kid. He came into the airport with nothing in his arms as he’d pawned it off on his sisters. He thought that he’d just found his favorite Austin. “You must be the Austin family.” He and Daniel shook hands. After that, he introduced his children to him. Gannon shook all their hands too. “I have a car for you to use. All the things that you sent ahead are already at the house. Demi said to tell you that she has the staff in place, and all you need to worry about is having dinner with them tonight. If you feel like it.” “I’m starving to death. My belly thinks that my throat has been struck through.” Gannon glanced at the little girl, then at her dad, who was mortified at what the child had said. “I want something to eat, please. I’m sorry, Daddy.” “Yes, well, I’m thinking that I might have to have a couple of rules to go over with your aunt when she has you. Mary, tell Mr. McCray that you’re sorry.” Gannon looked at Mary, who winked at him when she said that she was sorry.

Gannon changed his mind—Mary was going to be his favorite to hang out with. She was sassy and adorable. When he suggested that they hit a pizza joint on the way to the house, they all looked at their dad. This, he would bet, was a real treat for these kids. “I’m hungry too, so we’ll have pizza. But, and I can’t stress this enough, there will be no trying to outdo the others with how hot they make it. All right?” The kids moaned and groaned, but they agreed. Gannon wondered about that but decided to see if they could order the pizza to sit in the back for a minute or two so that it wouldn’t burn the kids when they ate. “Mr. McCray, thank you for this. It’s been a very long morning for us.” “It’s fine.” He helped them load everything in the back of the limo. He was to bring Daniel up to date on the school project, as well as give him the information about the house they were going to be staying in. “The ground level is nearly up, and all the walls for the basement are finished and standing now. Most of the wiring had to be redone, but that wasn’t on our end but that of the contractor. He is working overtime to catch up with his mistake.” “Yes, when I was looking at the video of the place, I did wonder why there were no outlets on that level. I’m glad that Mrs. McCray is sending me progress reports so that we can be up to speed on things as they go, instead of finding things when the building is nearly finished.” Gannon agreed with him and pulled out his notes. “I’m so glad to see that someone else writes themselves notes to go by. My sister, she’ll be coming in a few days, has never taken a list to the grocery store since she’s been going.

Of course, now that she can order online and have it delivered, it’s worked out well for her. I don’t like it, but it’s working for her.” “My aunt Mel never leaves the house except to come to our house. She says she’s a hermit crab.” Dan corrected his sister. “I know she’s not a crab—only to Dad, I guess— but that is what she said that I could call it. She said that it was better than me telling people she was a weirdo.” Gannon couldn’t help it—he burst out laughing. This child was going to love his dad, he thought. As they pulled up in front of the pizza place, he told them that it was on the company. Demi had made sure that he had a new company credit card for the school project, in the event that the Austin family needed something before they got to the house. He understood what Dan had been referring to about the heat of the pizza as soon as they started looking at the menu. They didn’t care if the pizza was cooked too hot, but hot as in the spices they could add. Holly and Dan seemed to have the taste buds of someone that would set their mouth on fire if they thought it would taste good. Mary was almost as bad, but Daniel didn’t like heat at all. He ordered his own cheese pizza, with nothing on it, and the salad bar. None of the kids were going to have salad until Daniel told them that they had to eat a balanced meal. “Okay, I’ll have a salad too, but I don’t have to like it.” Gannon covered his mouth when Holly looked at him. “I think my dad was born an old woman like Aunt Mel says about him all the time.

We have to balance our meals, lives, as well as our clothing when he has us.” “You live with your mom part of the time?” The older two stiffened up and looked around. Mary just shivered, as if she had had a nightmarish thought. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to say the wrong thing about that. When you said that you lived with your father, I just assumed.” “It’s all right, Mr. Gannon. Vicky dropped us off one time and didn’t say anything to anyone when she did it. Then she never came back for us. Or for Dad.” Gannon told Holly that he was sorry for that. “We were too at first. But then Dan and I thought of all the things that she had done to us and said to us about Daddy and Aunt Mel, and we decided that we’re better off without her.” “Holly, I’m sure that Mr. McCray doesn’t want to hear about our domestic life.” Holly seemed unaffected by her father’s response to what she’d said. Gannon could tell that Daniel was, however. “My ex-wife isn’t in the picture. They were talking about when they stay with my sister. Mel takes them to her apartment, and they have a good time trying to burn the place down with how hot their food is.” “I like heat too. Not like you three do, but I enjoy some hot when I’m eating.” When the pies were brought to their table, he noticed that all three of the kids had finished their salad. He supposed that everyone should make sure that their kids ate veggies with their other food. He should have done the same thing and had one himself. Taking a slice of the meat pizza and putting in on his plate, he heard from Demi. Her trying to be calm voice had his bear feeling a little tight inside of him.

I take it you have the family. He told her that he did and what they were doing. Don’t alarm anyone there, but Vicky, Daniel’s ex-wife, is looking for him. She’s been by their home twice in the last hour. If Mel is there, which I’m guessing she is by the work going on in the backyard, Vicky isn’t going in the barn to check to see if anyone is in there. There isn’t any love lost between the two of them. I just mentioned her in an off way, and they all looked like they were afraid of her. The kids, especially. Is this something that I need to keep an eye on? Demi said that they’d have a talk about her when they were all together. Will Mel be safe? The kids really love her, and I’d hate to think that anything would happen to her while they’re here. She’s fine. As I said, working. There are enough pack wolves around to keep Vicky from entering the house or the barn, but I wanted to warn you that we need to keep an eye on them. Not that I think she can find them here right now, but I just want this family to be safe. I like them. Gannon told her that he did as well. Good. Like I said, they have nothing to worry about now. But I don’t want anyone to be surprised when Vicky shows up because I have a feeling that she will now that it’s in the paper that he’s designing the school of the future. The aunt is to arrive in a couple of days. I don’t know why there’s a delay, but how is she getting here? By your plane, or will she be driving? Demi told him that she had thought Mel would be with them. I guess, from what the kids said, she’s working on some specs. They didn’t know what, and I didn’t ask, but it’s what put her behind.

I bet it was the locking mechanism that I asked her to change. I bet she had to retool the entire line for that. I’ll tell her how sorry I am to have changed it so close to their arrival date. Gannon told her about the kids wanting pizza, and that they liked it hot. Good for you. Someone you can eat with that likes your sort of food. We’re having steaks on the grill tonight. So all of you will be here. Also, before I forget, I hired you a staff. Okay, Gannon. I’ll see you when you get to their house. Lucian and I are there, making sure that things are ready for them. Gannon didn’t want a staff, but with his house being so huge, he could understand the need for it. Finishing up his meal with the family, he enjoyed being able to just hand over the credit card without looking at the bill. He knew that it was on the company account. But given the fact that he was making good money working with Demi, as well as now working for Meadow, he had had that much more fun in shopping for his furniture that he’d not been able to get at the warehouse. There had still been a great deal of furniture in the warehouse even after he and the others had taken out what they needed. Gannon was still going to go back to finish up the last bedroom. He’d been wanting the bunk bed set that was there since he’d walked around the first time. He had no idea if he’d have a great deal of use for it, but he had decided that it would be nice to have a set of twin beds in the last bedroom, just in case. He had no idea of what would happen, but he wanted that to be there for whoever needed it. Taking them to the house, Gannon was glad that they’d loosened up a great deal with him around. Daniel was a good father, keeping his kids in line and them helping each other. But he could see that they would try their best to get away with something while he wasn’t looking. “I’m exhausted.” Gannon thought maybe that was an understatement for the other man.

“I’ve been worried about my sister. Leaving her there alone, I hate doing that to her. She’s a grown woman, I know, but she has so many things going on in her head that I worry for her.” The kids had scattered once they were in the house. The girls were picking out a bedroom, and he knew the exact moment that they found the gifts that had been purchased for them. The screams were deafening, and they were laughing too. Demi and Meadow had gotten them laptops to use here and to take home with them when they left. Daniel and Lucian talked about the modifications that Mel had been doing as they walked away. “What?” He asked Demi what she meant. “I don’t know. You look like you’ve taken a tumble down the rabbit hole, and you don’t know which way is up.” “You’re very strange. Has anyone told you that before?” Demi pretended to consider it. “Never mind. You’re strange—let’s leave it at that. Nothing is wrong. I’m just thinking about what is going to happen with this family when the school is finished up. You said that his name was in the paper. You know that’s just going to be bringing out the worst of the worst. People everywhere will be plotting ideas on how to get inside of it just to prove you wrong.”

“I hope they do. Not prove me wrong, but try and get in. I’d like for someone with a devious mind to try and breach a single school that has this equipment in it.” Gannon watched his brother and the other man. “You like them.” “Of course I do. What are you trying very hard not to tell me, Demi? It’s not like you to beat around the bush, or even to knock the sucker out of your way when you have something on your mind.” She told him what she’d been thinking about. “I have too. I don’t know what to think if she is my mate. She’s not like you guys, all gung-ho and out there. I’ve never met her, but I have a feeling that she’s tender and terrified of shit.” “She is afraid. Of what? I don’t know for sure. She’s a recluse, as you might have guessed, and doesn’t like to be touched. I have an idea what happened to her that day, but she’s never said a word to anyone, including the therapist that she sees every other week. Her face was split open from her jawline to her eye. Also, she had numerous slices to her body that no one can explain.” Gannon asked why it mattered. “Because whatever it was that did that to her, it’s what haunts her. Meadow thinks it’s what keeps her hidden away from everyone. She can relate to that more than most, I think. But something happened to Mel, and until she tells someone about it, it’s going to continue to haunt her.” Gannon didn’t know what to say about that. He’d only heard a little about the shooting. Deciding that he needed to get home and look up what he could, Gannon told the family and Demi and his brother that he’d see them later.

He was nearly home when he thought of Mel being his mate. She was broken, he thought or was she breaking. There was a difference, he knew. Meadow had been breaking when she’d met his brother. Gannon thought that had she not met him, she would surely have broken to the point where no one could have gotten her to come back. While he didn’t know this other woman, he thought that if she was one of their mates, then they would need to make sure, and soon, that she knew they were there for her. Gannon also wondered about this Vicky person, and how much she knew about what had happened to Mel at the school. As in, if she had anything to do with it. Gannon had been thinking things like that since he’d started working for Demi. Thinking like a criminal was the only way to catch one. He had the skills to set up equipment to make sure that they were caught on camera. That was because he could think like they did a little. Demi did as well. It was scary how much Demi thought about it. Getting home, he was just putting away the things that he’d picked up before going to the airport when Demi called him. Her using the phone scared him more than what she could be calling him about. “I have the plane ready for you to go. I need for you to go back to Daniel’s home and see to his sister.” He asked her what was going on. “The house and the place where Mel was working are on fire. Daniel is going to go with you to help. Please be careful, Gannon. I don’t know what is going on, but I have a feeling that it’s not going to be good.”

“Is Mel all right?” She said that Mel was the one that had called her. “Okay, I’m leaving right now.” He got to the airport just as Daniel was getting out of the car. Lucian was with him, and they both looked upset. Whatever was happening, Gannon was sorry for the other man. This couldn’t be just a simple meeting of his potential mate. No, everything had to be topsy-turvy all the time.

Chandler Release Day &Giveaway

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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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 got back to her rental and sat down at the table. The dead woman knew her. The place was furnished, thankfully, so she didn’t have to worry about anything other than food. The dead woman in the field knew her. Sasha would have to make dinner soon. Looking around the kitchen area, she wondered how she’d gotten home. Her mind wouldn’t be still long enough for her to focus on one thing for more than a second or two. Laying her head down on the table, she thought about the things that the woman, Melinda Harvard, had told her. Not just that, she needed to be found—they knew where she was—but about not just her death, but the baby too. Also, she was her sister, she’d told her. Sasha didn’t know what to think about her saying that. As far as she knew, she had just the one sister, and she didn’t look like Melinda at all. She didn’t even act like her. While Pearl still lived at home, taking care of their mom, she’d never been as thin as she wanted to be. Pearl had weighed close to four hundred pounds the last time she’d seen her, over three years ago now. Sasha, too, had always had to fight with her weight. But she wasn’t obese, or anything like her sister was. Sasha made sure that she kept up with her exercise program. And when she wasn’t able to run or something like that, she’d go to the gym. Melinda had been thin, but it seemed more like she was just that way, rather than she’d had to work at it. Sasha had no idea why that mattered, but she was trying to think of things that would make what the woman had told her true. Which, Sasha realized, was more than likely just that. Just as true as Sasha being able to talk to ghosts. In thinking of her sister, she thought of her mom. Her mother was a liar and a thief.

She scammed people when she could, even if there was no reason for her to do so. Sasha also knew that her mom could get up and around as well as Sasha could. Being confined to a wheelchair, as she told everyone, was a bald-faced lie, like most of the things that spewed from her mother’s lips—like her name. Her mom had been calling herself Katie since Sasha had been a child. Her real name was Sally, but she had always liked the name Katie and decided that it made her sound younger. Sasha had never understood her mother—even less, her brother and sister. Her dad was the only one that not only believed in her but gave her shelter when talking to the dead got to be too much. With her parents divorced since she’d been five, it was easier to stay away from Katie when she got it into her head that Sasha needed to be doing more for her. Sasha got up to make herself a cup of tea, her mind still battling with the things she’d been told. The brewing of the tea, the putting in the sugar and lemon, gave her something else to think about, even if momentarily. As soon as she sat down, Sasha thought of Melinda. She’d gone to the body to see if she could find out who had killed the woman and left a newborn behind. Sasha liked the big ex-cop who had been there and didn’t mind helping him out when he’d ask.

Sasha knew something was off almost before she got to the body. The ghost was staring at her with a huge smile. “There you are.” Sasha told her that she didn’t know her. “No, but I do you. You’re my sister. My older sister by five years. Your mother, our mother, gave me away when she figured that people would think her much too old to have another child. Since they knew who she was, they put my name on the birth certificate as well as hers. That way, I was able to find you.” “I have a sister and a brother.” Melinda had told her their names and their birthdates. “That’s correct. Why are you here? I don’t usually get to— Do you know who murdered you?” “I do.” She looked at Sawyer then, and the man that was standing nearby, a cop whose name she couldn’t remember. “It’s not like you think, whatever you’re thinking. I wasn’t killed by any of those that we’re related to. I don’t know why I cannot think of his name, but you don’t know him.” “I don’t usually come to people where they’ve been killed or died. The dead usually seek me out, and I tell someone where they are to be found. This is all new to me.” Melinda said that she’d been given permission to talk to her. “By whom? There are more people out there like me?” “Yes. Very many like you are now. But that is to change. You’ll need to start helping us.” Melinda sat down beside her or made it look like she was sitting. “You’ve been so very helpful to the dead, sister mine. You’ve helped so many of us find peace, and given those that we love more peace in that bodies have been found and put to rest. We cannot thank you enough for that.”

“I didn’t have a choice in the matter. They just started coming to me when I was four. I haven’t any idea why I can even do this shit.” Melinda asked her about the mark that was on the bottom of her left foot. “So? I’ve had that forever. It’s even noted on my baby chart that I have it. What is it other than a birthmark?” “A mark of birth.” Sasha told her that she didn’t know what she meant. “You were hurt in the womb, and that made you so much different than other children being born. Others like you need to be taught how to do what you do naturally. My child, my daughter, has the same marking. The man who murdered me, he thought he was killing you or someone that could talk to ghosts. He wishes us dead so that we will not tell anyone what he’s done. I still don’t know his name, but as I said, you know him.” “Was he going to kill the baby? Your child?” Melinda watched as pictures were taken of her body. When she was flipped to her back, Sasha could see that her belly had been cut open, the child taken from her. “He did this to you?” “No. He only shot me, in my belly there where I’ve cut myself. I did the rest. I could not let her die within me. I needed her to be found, and someone—someone like you— to raise her. To keep her safe.” Sasha told her that she didn’t want a child. “Then she will die as well, I think. He will find her through records.” “Sasha?” She looked at Sawyer when he said her name. “We know that you’re speaking to her. What we don’t know is what’s going on. Can you tell us anything about her murderer? Did he do this to her?”

Sasha told him about how Melinda had delivered her own child. That the man had meant to kill them both after he realized it wasn’t Sasha. That he wanted them both dead. However, she didn’t tell him that they were related. Nor did she mention that she was supposed to take the child to raise as her own. “You will need his help, they told me. The Bishop men are worthy of one, such as yourself. They are well respected on both sides of this sphere.” Sasha asked her who had told her that. “The dead. Those in charge of making sure that the rules of our kind are enforced. That we’re doing nothing to the living, nor are we harming those that helped us be found. There are others out there that do more. You will never have to do what they do. But you will be the one that they go to when they have unsolved business to take care of, such as finding the person or people that killed them. You have been, I guess, promoted.” “Promoted? I don’t want to be promoted, damn it. I want to just do what I do and nothing more.” Melinda started to fade. “I have so many questions. You can’t leave me yet.” “I must, I’m afraid. I have lingered too long on this sphere.” She stood up when Melinda began to fade more. “His first name begins with the letter ‘C’—that is all that I can remember. You must find him before he finds you. He will know when my death is announced, that he killed the wrong person.” Then she was gone. Sasha had come back home in a fog, not letting her mind think of anything but the next step to getting there—get in the car, start the car, and things such as that.

Now here she sat with so much useless information that she didn’t know where to even start. Sitting at the table, stirring her tea until it was cool enough to drink, she got herself a pen and paper and began writing down all the people that she knew whose first name began with the letter C. There was a pitiful number of them, and only a scant few of them even knew what she did for others. Not sure what she was supposed to do now, she picked up her tea and dumped it into the sink. Sasha didn’t even care for the drink, but there was something so calming about making it that she kept the bags around just for the simple pleasure of making it. When her cell phone rang, she picked it up after seeing the face of her mom. Sitting down again, she was ready for the battle that would ensue. Deciding not to talk about what she’d discovered today, she made sure that her mom knew that she was busy upon answering the phone. “I don’t care what you might think you’re doing that makes you too busy to talk to me. Where have you been, Sasha? I’ve been by your apartment several times, and you’re not there. I want to know what you’re up to now.” Sasha laid her head back on the table when she saw that Hailey had returned. “Are you there? It would be just like you to just put the phone down and not speak to me.” “I’m here. I have had a rough morning already, and I don’t want to have to deal with whatever drama you think you might have going on in your life at the moment. Also, how the hell did you go by my house, Mom? I thought that you weren’t to drive. You said you couldn’t walk.” That didn’t sit well with her mom, but she didn’t care.

“Whatever you’ve done, whatever you’ve had done to you, it’s not my concern. You got yourself into whatever mess you’re in, get yourself out of it.” “When did you become so horrid, Sasha? You used to be such a fun-loving little girl. Where did she go?” Not answering her didn’t seem to be an option with her mom today. “Tell me what it is so that I can tell you to get over it and—” “I grew up and figured out that you’re not as young, as nice, or as wonderful as you and your clique thinks you are. You’re a mean, hateful person that thinks revenge is the only way that you can make people pay for whatever shit you’re doing at the moment that goes belly up.” Mom huffed at her. “As I said, I have things going on here, and I need to get to them. Call Pearl or Zack home. They’ll be rooting you on in your misdeeds because they don’t know you the way I do.” Disconnecting the call made her feel better, but not for long. Looking at Hailey when she moved to stand in front of her, Sasha asked her what she needed. The smile that she gave her was watery, with bits of underwater things hanging out. Sasha shivered. “I’ve been found, thanks to you,” Sasha asked her why she was still here then. “I’ve been asked to keep an eye on you. To help you with your new job.” “I don’t remember saying that I’d take it. Besides, if it’s just more of the same, I’ve learned it by myself. I’m sure that I can figure out the rest. Don’t you?” Hailey began to change. Not fade, but to become what she might have looked like before her untimely death. “You’ll be human again?” “No. Not human.

I thought that it would be much easier for you to see me like this, rather than how I looked when they pulled me from the water this afternoon. You did very well with the Bishop person today. He will be an ally for us both. He and his family.” Sasha pointed out that she worked alone and liked it that way. “You have done very well in the past, Sasha, but things needed to change. In that, you were the one that was chosen to help more people. It will be good for us.” “And what about me? How is this going to be better for me? Did anyone think about how much I’ve given up to help the dead? How very little sleep I get when you and the others come to me in the middle of the night and then bug me until you’re found? Did anyone mention that?” She asked Sasha if not being able to sleep would have mattered in the long run. “Yes, it would have mattered. I can’t hold down a job. And the little work that I do get, someone always comes along and screws that up for me too. I’m broke. The last of my money was used to come here. Because you dragged me here by telling me how important it was that I help them find you. I did that.” “You did. Would you like to know why it was so important?” Sasha said that she didn’t care. Hailey just smiled as she spoke again. “Bradley was planning the same demise for the woman that he is living with now. She deceived him by not telling him of her children, of which she has three. They, too, would have been murdered. Her youngest child, Beth, is to become a great attorney someday. Someone that will fight for the dead and their rights. There are none of those now.”

“This is the reason that I don’t want to know shit about those that I have to help.” Sasha paced the room as Hailey waited. “This ‘C’ person. Does he really exist? Is he really going to come after me? And that little baby?” “Yes. He will kill you both if he finds you.” Sasha didn’t care about herself, but it would hurt her if something happened to her…niece, she supposed. “The babe is in good hands now. She is being called Pip. There is no other name for her that we were told. The man that is caring for her, he is as good a man, as is his brother, the cop that you worked with today. You will need them all, especially this man when the man comes for you.” “This is a fucked up nightmare. You know that, don’t you?” Hailey told her how sorry she was. “I’m sorry too. This isn’t your fault. It’s mine, for thinking I could ever have a normal life.” Before she changed her mind about this, even if she’d had a choice, she pulled out the business card that had been given to her by Sawyer. Calling the man to see how she could get help from him, she told him that she’d like to meet him at his house. She figured that was the best way to figure out what the fuck was going to happen to her now. Also, she told him that she’d need a ride to and from his home, please? ~*

~ Raven watched the proceedings of her mother’s pretrial hearing. Not only had she been found to be quite sane, which no one that had met her believed, but they thought that she was competent to stand trial for her crimes. Not that Mother thought she’d done anything wrong, but she had killed her entire family as a child, and that was what they were going to try her for. She had also murdered several people recently in the name of getting things to impress her clique at the club. And she’d kidnapped Raven’s daughter, Molly, and nearly killed her. The people there were listening intently to what was going on. Most of them, Raven had found out, had been taken advantage of in some way. Whether it was financial or physically, Merriam Addington had been worse than any of them had thought. Including her father. Roger, her dad, was getting on with his life now that his wife of thirty years was no longer bullying him around. And Mother had been a bully, too. She didn’t even care if she had to lie or cheat to get him to do what she told him. The thing that bothered the family was that Mother had thought she was the first and only Addington, and that other Addington’s were to use her as a guide on how to act and live. The fact that her only daughter had a child out of wedlock made her feel that Molly wasn’t a real person and that she should have been killed at all costs. Raven had been an adult when she had Molly. The man that she’d been having a fling with had already been married, which Raven hadn’t known about. Then a few weeks after she broke it off with him, he’d been killed, which Raven thought had worked out well for her and Molly. His plan had been to marry her after killing off his current wife, then to kill Raven. After that, he’d be wealthy—her name and money would open doors for him. Mostly to the bars, but they’d be opened up.

“Mrs. Bishop? Would you mind coming forward, please?” Raven stood up and made her way to the dais that the judge was sitting behind. Something must have happened, she supposed, while she’d been thinking because he looked about as stressed as any man that she’d ever seen. “Your mother would like to have a word with you about her living conditions.” Raven glanced at her mother before looking at the judge with a smile. “No. I like her right where she is.” The judge glanced at his name bar to remind her to address him properly, and Raven told Judge Henry that she was sorry. He rubbed his hand over his face to the back of his hair. It looked as if he’d been doing that for some time now. “What is it she thinks I’ll do for her?” “She won’t tell anyone but you. She said that it’s personal. And because of that, she will not answer any of the questions put to her so that we may proceed with this pretrial.” Raven glanced at her mother, then back at the judge again. “I’m begging you, Raven, to do this for us, please. I have a lot to get through today. I don’t want to burden you, but I’ve seen you in action with her, and I think it would maybe set her up nicely if you were to tell her what you wish.” “Will you record it?” He said if she did this, he’d use his own phone to do that. “All right. But this will not be pretty, sir. I’m telling you right now that I don’t like her, and I certainly will not be putting up with her shit.” “Good for you.” Raven walked to her mother just as one of the bailiffs walked to stand by her. He was holding a small device pointed at her mother, and she smiled at her. This was going to be ugly, Raven knew it. “What is it you think you want me to do for you? I want you to think very hard on it, and realize that I’m going to tell you no.”

Merriam told her to keep her voice down. “I will not. You only lower yours when you think it suits whatever it is you’re doing. Otherwise, you shout to the world what you’re talking about. What is it?” “I was told that you are pressing charges against me for trying to take that bastard child from you. Raven, she cannot be an Addington. Don’t you get that? She’s nothing. Not to me. She shouldn’t be to you either. Get rid of all that nasty weight.” Raven started to walk away. “Wait. I want you to have your father stop this divorce. How can I hope to become the next president of the club if I have a divorce hanging over my head? You tell him that I’m going to teach him a lesson if he doesn’t take care of this right now. I’m an Addington, for Christ’s sake, and we do not divorce.” “Apparently, having several dozen abortions is all right, though.” Mother looked around and told her to keep her voice down again. No one needed to know that in here. “Ah, but they do know that. Everyone does. It’s been in the newspaper, and I want you to know that I helped you out with that.” “It’s about time that you did something by me. I’ve never done a thing to you that you didn’t deserve. When are you going to get away from that man you supposedly married?” Raven said that they were still married and were going to have a child. “No. No, you can’t do this to me. I demand that you abort it right now.”

“Here? In this courtroom, right here on the floor? Why Mother, what would people say if I just popped out my child right here?” Mother called her all kinds of names then. Some of them Raven was sure that she was making up. When she called her a slut for what seemed like the millionth time since she’d found out she was having Molly, Raven had enough. “Watch your mouth, Mother. You want something from me, while I want nothing more to do with you.” “You have never been a good child to me, Raven. Never. Not since you were old enough to use that smart mouth of yours.” Raven thanked her. “That is not something you should be proud of, Raven. I swear to you, you are the cruelest and most rotten person there is. I am still your mother, damn it. You contact your father, and you tell him that I want out of here. I do not belong here, and I will not tolerate him leaving me here as if I mean nothing to him and the name Addington.” “You don’t, as a matter of fact. Besides, I don’t know what has you so hyped up about getting home. The house has been sold. Daddy is living with my husband, daughter, and I while he thinks about what he wants to do from now on. One of my wonderful brothers-in-law is going to move in after everything in the place that you breathed on is stripped out. That’s everything in the event you didn’t know.” Mother stood up and slammed her chained hands against the table.

“What? Are you upset about something?” “You tell him I will not allow that. I am going to live there even if I have to kill a lot of people to make it happen. You tell your father that it will be entirely his fault because he drove me to it.” Raven reminded her mother that she was being recorded. She turned to look at the recorder before continuing. “Roger Addington, you will be at that house when I get out of here, or so help me, I will destroy you, both physically and financially, before your next heartbeat.” “Oh, before I forget to tell you. While we’re on the subject of Dad, he’s made it so that you’re not an Addington. He’s stripped you of that name because you were never the name that you changed it from when you married him. Also, and this is really funny to me—you signed a prenup. You’re getting nothing. Not one red cent from Daddy, his estate, or me. Ever.” This time Raven did walk away from her. Mother was still screaming at her to get back to where she was. Raven, ignoring all the insults and nasty things she was being called, barely made it to the bathroom before she threw up. While she knew that it was never going to get better between them, she could be happy that her mother was going to be far away when this was finished. She wanted her not only in prison but in one that was far, far away from her. While in prison, she’d not be able to make calls every day. Mother would be unable to have people message Raven through the courts. It would be better for all of them when she was gone. Prison might even make her a better person. Raven wondered why she’d even bothered to come here today. Hello, my darling. I can feel you’re stressed out again. Should I come there as my cat and rescue you? Sawyer had a way about him that made her feel better with just a simple sentence. I take it that nothing is going as planned at the courthouse today.

Nothing. Worse than that, Mother is holding up the proceedings so that she can yell at me about the divorce and how I’ve ruined the good name of Addington. I shouldn’t have come here. You were right. Sawyer said that he wasn’t so sure that he had been. What do you mean? You think I should have come here and been treated this way? Wow, that’s harsh. No, I didn’t mean that. I meant that—well, you have to admit, you were feeling a little doubtful about your mother and whether what she’d been doing was enough to warrant her being in prison. Did this help? She said that it had solidified it very well that she needed to be put away. That’s as good as any reason to be there, to figure this out on your own. You might have believed me a little that this was going to happen when we spoke about it. But you got to know first-hand that she’s a fucking bitch who isn’t going to change. Did you tell her about the house? I did. I’m so glad that Gunner is buying it from Dad. To be honest with you, every time I think about him living in that huge house, all I can think about is he’ll be sleeping out on the back lawn in a sleeping bag rather than buying himself some nice furniture for it. Sawyer told her that Gunner was actually working with the people in the house. Well, that’s good, I guess. How is he handling being around people? I didn’t say he was there when they were. He comes in after they’re gone, and I guess one of them leaves him a list of stuff that he can do. Gunner told me that he’s enjoying getting his hands dirty in a way that doesn’t involve blood. Freaked me out a little when he said that.

Raven laughed and got up from the floor to clean herself up. There was another reason that I contacted you. How would you like to meet myself and Molly for dinner? I’ll bring your grandma too. We could try out that restaurant that you were reading about, and then get Holly a car. She’s been bugging me to do that for her. She said that she loves bugging you, so don’t think this will be the end of her bothering you about things. She loves you. Sawyer told her that he loved her as well. I’m going to go back to the hotel and take a short nap. Molly is at the packhouse, learning how to use the magic that she got from you. I still can’t believe that she has so much from a few drops of your blood. I’m just glad that it’s not much more than she has now. Being able to search out things that she wants and to bring them to her is nothing that I know how to do. I think she’s a little upset that she can’t shift. She was, Raven told him. Okay—date or not? Yes. I’ll take a nap at the hotel that I’m in, and you guys can meet me there. I do understand that they had to move the trial to a different place, but Columbus isn’t that far away, do you think? He told her how it had a lot more people to choose from for jurors than their town. I suppose. Okay, I’m better now. I’ll go there and see you guys later. I can’t wait for this to be done. Is Daddy all right? He is. I think that he’s having a good time with my dad. They’re working on the rose garden. Dad and he are learning how to drive the tractor and use the attachments. I guess Roger wants to put in a little garden someplace on the land that we have. I told him that would be fine by me. Mom is going to help him with it. She asked him about the peas. Yes, the ground is plowed up, and the rows are set up and ready. Mom is so excited about having peas that she can’t hardly stand it. Seems like a great deal of work for so little return, but then Mom will make it work to where she’ll have bushels of them if I don’t miss my bet. They were still laughing when she exited the bathroom. There were police all around this floor she was on. When one of them spotted her, Raven was escorted to the limo that was out front for her, and he made sure that she was in the hotel before he left.

Whatever happened, because Sawyer said he’d not called anyone to escort her, Raven was glad they were taking care of her. Raven had a feeling that it had to do with her mother. Exhaustion rolled over her in waves as soon as she got off the elevator on her floor. Even before she was able to get the covers pulled back on the bed, she was falling into it and closing her eyes. The baby and the stress were making it difficult for her to function. Raven decided that for her own peace of mind and health, she wasn’t going back to the courthouse.

Marsden Wilkerson Dynasty Series

 

When Marsden Wilkerson received the phone call that his mother had been in a car accident, he wasn’t letting anything get in his way to get to her. Not a pushy boss, and especially not his Aunt Eita. Then his world crumbled when the doctors told him that his mother, Holly, didn’t make it.
Gabriella Farley, Abby, could hold her own, and she wasn’t about to take any flack from a rich bitch like Penelope Wilkerson.

All the Wilkerson women, with the exception of Holly, could fit that description. Abby stood up for Mars at the funeral home even though she really didn’t know him. What she did know was his mother, Holly, was a fine woman, and the family had given them both the shaft Mars’s entire life.

Mars wanted to apologize for his Aunt’s actions, but there was something about Abby that sparked a flame in his heart. From the first kiss, they knew they had something special, but going against the Wilkerson family could be very dangerous. Will this new love be doomed from the start?

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Mars moved along the line and picked up what he needed for his work. Today he was putting together the ingredients for the coloring for the next pieces of acrylic they were sending out. He was the chemical engineer that mixed the chemicals together that created the colors that the customer ordered. He loved his job too. After it was approved, he’d give the specs to the next team, and they’d mix it all up on much larger batches, then use it on the large pieces of acrylic that would be made into huge sheets. He would do that as well, calculate the mass quantities of the ingredients so the plastic-looking sheets—to be made into whatever was needed— would have a uniform color. Like, he always liked to tell people, the holding aquarium tanks that were used in zoos across the country were made of the same acrylic that he colored and helped manufacture. As he was finishing up on the teal color that he needed, he was paged that he had a phone call. Since he couldn’t take his mask and gloves off in the cleanroom, he made his way out into the hall from where he worked and picked up the phone.

“Mr. Wilkerson? This is Officer Jamie Brown. There has been an accident.” He fell against the wall where he was working and asked the officer what had happened. “You mom, sir. She’s been involved in a hit and run, and I’m afraid it’s not good news. You need to get here as soon as possible if you can. They’ve taken her to surgery, and as I said, it doesn’t look good for her. I’m so terribly sorry.” “Where is she?” He told him where his mom was and how long she’d been there. “I’m on my way. It’ll only take me about twenty minutes to get there, providing there is not much…. I’ll be there soon.” He didn’t know why he was explaining things to the officer. Nerves, he guessed. As he was pulling off his coat and gloves, his boss came around the doorway and asked him where he was going in an all-fired hurry. “Hospital. My mom has been in an accident, and she’s in surgery now.” Chris put up his hand to block Mars from moving around him.

“Did you hear me? I said that my mom has been in an accident and I need to go.” “You work for me, right?” Mars nodded and wished that anyone other than Chris Blevins had caught him leaving. Everyone else would have said go, call me when you know something. But not Chris. “Yeah, I thought so. That means that I get to tell you when you can leave. Not you leaving, then someone else telling me where you’ve gone. Go back in there and get the rest of your work finished up, Wilkerson. I don’t have time to explain to you what sort of trouble you can get into for abandoning your job, now do I?” “No, you don’t. But I didn’t plan on leaving without telling someone why I was leaving. You caught up with me before I could.” Chris just nodded at him, as if he didn’t believe him. “I have to go. The officer that I just spoke to told me she’s in surgery and that it looks bad. I need to be with my—” “I need you to be here doing the job that you were hired to do.

And since we pay you, we trump your mommy being in the hospital. Besides, aren’t you a little old to be sucking at your momma’s tit?” Chris laughed, and Mars wanted to slug him. Glancing down, he saw that he’d not yet turned off his camera, always on when he was in the lab and was recording the moron in front of him. “Now that we have that figured out, you get your ass back in there and get to work on your job. As I pointed out earlier, we pay you, which does not include you running off for every little boo-boo that someone has in your family.” Mars reached blindly for the phone that was near him. Fingering the buttons, he found the two that he wanted and called the lead supervisor to where he was. Chris didn’t seem to be impressed with his move, but Mars waited. Oliver Reese entered the hallway just as Chris was screaming at him to get to work. “I’m telling you right now, Mars, if Oliver does come down here to see you, he’s not going to be at all pleased. Just today he was telling me that he’s sick of whiney assed employees thinking that they have any rights at all with anything. You fucking get that ass of yours back in that lab before I have to put you in there. I’m not shitting you. I will have your ass fired if you even think of leaving here because your mommy needs you to hold her fucking hand while she gets a few stitches.” Mars told him that the police said she was in bad shape and that he was leaving.

“You do that, and I’ll make sure that you never work as an engineer for so long as I live. You’re a fucking employee, not a boss. Get in there, like I said to you, or so help me, you’ll regret it.” “That’s quite enough, Chris.” Chris turned to look at Oliver when he spoke. “Your mother has been in an accident, Mars? I’m sorry to hear that. Get going, and give her my best and tell her that I’m thinking of her.” “Thank you, sir.” Nodding, Mars moved around Chris, who tripped him. Getting up, Mars had to count to ten before he could look at Chris again. Then he backed away from him. “You’re not worth the mud on my boots.” Leaving the building, he was running to his car when his phone rang. It was his Aunt Evelyn or Eita for short. Telling her that he was on his way to the hospital, she told him that the police wouldn’t tell her anything. Not even if the accident victim was his mom. “They just called me.” She demanded, which was her way, to know what the hell was going on. “I don’t know. I’m on my way to the hospital now.” “You left work? Marsden, I’m sure your mother will be just fine. Tell me where she’s at, and I’ll go there to take care that she’s okay. You know how she can be.” She laughed that bitter biting laugh that she did when speaking about him or his mom. “You can barely afford to leave your job in the middle of the day, Marsden. Have some responsibility, please. Stay there, and I’ll take care of every—” Hanging up on her felt wonderful. Traffic was tight, but he knew this town like he knew his room. Mars also made sure that he was careful not to speed and to keep his cool. All he needed was for him to be in an accident too, and they’d both be laid up. When his phone rang again, he saw that it was his Uncle Clayton.

. Answering it while pulling into the parking lot, he was too stressed to be nice to anyone right now. “Your aunt said that you hung up on her, Marsden. That is no way to treat your elders. You just let her take care of this for your mother and get back to work. She said that you cursed at her at well.” Mars didn’t say anything. “Listen, young man, I will not tolerate you treating your aunt this way. Now, get back to work. She told me that you left there without telling anyone. You can’t afford to lose your job, Marsden. Especially without either of you having any kind of job.” Hanging up without any comment, not that it would have done any good, he made his way into the hospital. After being directed where to go, he made his way up to the surgical floor. The staff there told him that it would be a little while, but the police would speak to him now that he was there. While he waited, Mars checked his messages. There were several from work. Deciding that he didn’t want to be bothered about that right now, he ignored them. There were two from Uncle Clayton and four from his wife, Aunt Eita. They would gang up on him when they arrived, treating him as if he were a ten-year-old instead of the twenty-something-year-old man that he was. His uncles were his mom’s brothers. She was the baby of the family, and they still treated her that way even now. They also all thought that they were so much better than he and his mom were. Mom having gotten pregnant with him when she’d been just barely sixteen years old, had also meant that they never respected her, especially not his aunts.

Each of his uncles had married women that, to him, seemed to be cut from the same mold. Snobbish women who thought that they were the only people in the world who could get a job done right or whatever “project” they set their minds to. Mostly it was keeping him and Mom in their place, which was several hundred steps below where they thought they were. They were forever in their business and talking to them like they had a learning disability. Neither of them had any such problems. But, unlike them, he and his mom kept out of their business, family, and whatever else they had going on. Mom had worked hard after he was born, and his grandfather had kicked her to the curb. All her brothers were married by then and had never once helped her out. Well, they helped her out with useless advice, but that was about all. His mom had gone to night school to finish her high school education, then on to college to get a nursing degree. He wondered if any of them had any idea the accomplishments that his mom had made. Her same work ethic had been taught to him. You want something, you go after it. And he had. Mars had wanted to be a chemist from the first time he’d had a chemistry set as a kid. He not only pursued a degree in his desired job, but he also had continued to work on his education, with his mom’s support, to receive his doctorate in the same field. He was now Marsden Wilkerson, Doctor of Chemical Engineering and Chemistry. He and his mom had celebrated for a week when he’d graduated at the top of his class thirteen years ago. Mars had been more proud of his mom when she’d become head nurse at the hospital that he was at right now, as well as department head for nursing at the college where they’d both gone.

When his phone rang again, he let it go to voice mail. It was Chris, his boss again. He wanted nothing to do with him right now. Going to the desk to ask the nurses there if they’d heard anything, he sighed when they shook their heads. Gladys told him that she had only just asked the OR for news. “Your mother is a strong woman, Mars. You know that. She’ll be just fine.” He nodded and told her that he hoped so. “I do, as well. There has never been another person here that works as hard as she does. Not only at being a damned fine nurse, but helping the rest of us when it comes to issues.” “She was telling me last night that you guys were having a party for one of the doctors who is leaving. Mom said it was more of a celebration for the nurses that he was finally retiring than them being happy for him.” Gladys and the other women laughed. “Has my family been calling you a lot? Just tell them that I’m here and that I’ll call them if there is anything they need to know.” “I told that aunt of yours, Christa, that she had better curb her demands at the door before she comes up here or I’ll call security on her. Demanding that I send you home. I don’t know how your mother came from the same family as those brothers of hers. I swear, I don’t.” He didn’t either but said nothing. He was watching the police come toward him. “Mars, you take them in the nurses’ office there. Lock the door. That way, no one will bother you. I’ll send the surgeon in when he’s done too.” They shook his hand, Officer Brown and his partner Officer Dutch. About ten minutes after taking them into the room to talk, the doctor came in to speak to him as well. Mars wondered at the timing but waited for the news.

~*~ Eita saw Marsden sitting in the little room when she got off the elevator. He had his back to her, and for reasons that she couldn’t explain that pissed her off more. Clayton stopped at the desk, and she made her way into the room. It was about time that Marsden started having respect for his elders. She wasn’t going to tolerate anything more from him today. “What do you think you’re doing here? Didn’t I tell you to go back to work? I swear to Christ, Marsden, you’re going to lose that job of yours, and then where will you be while your mom is laid up? I’m not going to bail you out of anything. I did tell you that I had this taken care of, didn’t I? Several times, I believe. What did she do to cause the accident, anyway? Texting and driving, no doubt.” Marsden just looked at her, his eyes cold. “Don’t you dare look at me like that! You know as well as the rest of us do that you’re barely making it on the money you have coming in. You’re both still living in that shabby little place, aren’t you? Well, when your mother comes home, she’s going to stay with us. I’ll make sure that she has proper care and someone getting her up and moving again.

” “Marsden?” He turned his head and looked at Clayton. He had better not baby him, or Eita would tear him a new ass when she got home. “They won’t tell me anything
about your mother. They said that you did that. You go out there right now and tell them that I’m her brother and that I’m—” “So you did remember that she’s your sister, did you?” Clayton looked shocked, but Eita didn’t. Marsden had never had any respect for them. Any of them. That was going to stop now as well. “I’m her son, and I’m the only one that can make decisions on her behalf. Also, you might be her brother, but that doesn’t mean shit to me right now. So you can fuck off.” Eita slapped Marsden. As his face reddened with her handprint there, she felt a satisfaction that she’d not been able to feel since the first time she’d spanked this kid. Of course, he was an adult, but that was absolutely no reason for him to behave like he was from the streets. Though, the way things were going, she didn’t doubt that he’d end up there after a time. She lifted her chin up a few more notches when he stood up.

“What do you have to say for yourself, Marsden? You’ll apologize to your uncle right this minute. As much as I’d like to blame this on your mother’s little accident, you’ve always been a disrespectable little shit. Tell him right now that you’re sorry, or so help me, Marsden, I’ll make you regret it.” Marsden looked at her. While she tapped her foot so that he’d know she meant business, he finally spoke to her. “You ever draw back your hand to hit me again, and I will fucking hit you back. You can demand no more respect of me than you’re willing to return.” He then looked at Clayton. “My mother died on the operating table twenty minutes ago. Her little accident took her life.” Eita looked at Clayton when Marsden left them both standing there. Surely he had that wrong. There was no way that Holly would leave her only son to fend for himself. Sitting next to Clayton when he sat down, she wondered what she was going to have to do now. Christ, they’d have to make arrangements for her funeral, and more than likely pay for it too. “He’d better not be doing anything that my ass has to cover.

” Clayton didn’t say anything. “I’ll have to go down to the funeral home and make the arrangements for this, or he’ll have it so expensive that we’ll have to dip into our savings account. I don’t know who would even come to it either. I wonder if it would be all right if we just made it a graveside service without calling hours. That will suit everyone just fine. Where do you suppose her body is now?” “I don’t know.” She really didn’t think that Clayton would know, but he stood up. “I’ll go and see what sort of things we can do to make this happen. I can’t believe that Holly is gone. You assured me that the police said it was nothing more than a fender bender when you spoke to them.” “I didn’t actually speak to them, Clayton. I told you that.” He said that she had. “No, what I told you was that Marsden wouldn’t allow me to speak to them. But from what I heard on the scanner in my office, it was only two cars. Nothing to think that she’d be killed in it.” “Well, you were wrong. Weren’t you?” Nodding at him, Eita didn’t point out that he was being rude to her. She would allow him to be cranky for a little while longer, then she’d have to shake him out of it. “I’ll have to call and tell the rest of the family.

What did he mean about me remembering that she’s my sister?” “He’s still going on about not inviting her to our Christmas parties. I told them both, several times, that it’s not their type of crowd. People with money, like our friends, do not want to be reminded that there are people out there with less than them. Especially at Christmas.” Clayton told her that he thought it was more than that. “Who knows about those two, Clayton? They were forever with their hands out to someone or another. It wouldn’t surprise me if there isn’t even any insurance to pay for things. And him not working? I just don’t know what to do about that. Do you have any idea what he even does for a living? I’m betting that he’s nothing more than a fast-food restaurant manager, or something lowly like that.” “I don’t know what he does. I don’t even know what Holly did for a living.” She could hear a tone in his voice, but since he didn’t use it on her, she didn’t care. “Don’t you think that’s sad? That I have no idea what my sister has done with her life?” “No, I don’t think that’s sad at all, Clayton. She made her bed, and she had to do things on her own to be taught a lesson. The smartest thing your father ever did was to put her out when she found out she was going to have Marsden. Did I tell you that I looked it up once? The name on the certificate for his father is unknown. She should have made a name up rather than putting unknown. Now everyone will know what sort of person she was by that statement.” He asked her what sort of person she meant. “You know what I mean.

The type that sleeps around so much that she hasn’t any idea who to blame her mistake on. And he was a mistake. She could have been so much a part of this family if she’d taken care not to get herself in that position. I’ve always thought that Marsden’s father was a married man that didn’t want to have anything to do with raising a child from one of his flings. Clayton, I’m telling you right now, I think Holly got just what she deserved in life by getting herself in that position.” “I don’t think that she wanted to die, Eita. No one wants that.” She didn’t answer him. Holly more than likely planned the accident so she could get sympathy from her brothers. Well, had that happened, Eita and the other women of the family would have put an end to that too. Eita and the other wives had been making sure that Holly and her bastard son stayed right where they were since Holly announced that she was going to have a baby. No amount of tears that she shed that day would have made Eita any less hard on the child. As she told Clayton, since Holly screwed up, that was her problem. And she wouldn’t take the rest of them down with her. Pulling out her phone, she pulled up her party line numbers that they all used when they had juicy gossip. This news was going to pop all their buttons when they heard what she had to share. Smiling, she waited for them to answer. When talking to them, she never had to fake her concern or pretend to feel any different than she really did when talking about Holly and Marsden. None of them cared for the sister or her son. “We’ve all heard about Holly. Can you believe that?” Eita, having her news already spread about, asked Tina who she’d heard it from. “Marsden called him a few minutes ago. He told us that she’d been in an accident, which we all knew, and that she’d not made it out of surgery.

Also, he said that funeral arrangements would be ready in a couple of days.” “He thinks he’s going to go down there and run up a high bill and that we’ll all pay for it. I have news for him, I’m going to make sure I do it so that there isn’t any way that he’ll put a huge bill out for one of us to pay. I was thinking just a quick graveside. I doubt very much either of them had any friends. Of course, there will be ours, but they won’t go to someone’s funeral that they don’t know. Do you think?” They all agreed with her, just as she liked it. “He’s also not working. I told him that I had this taken care of, and what did he do? He left work to come here like we didn’t already make arrangements to be here. I swear to you, he does stuff like that just to piss me off. He also threatened me. I slapped him when he was nasty to his uncle. I don’t think he has a lick of manners. Holly did him wrong by keeping him when he was born, and now we’re all going to pay for her stupidity.” When she’d told them all she knew, Eita was surprised to see Clayton sitting out in the lobby. He never left her alone without asking her permission to do so. It just wasn’t done in their society. Well, just a little bit longer, she told herself, and he’d be back to his old self again. Going to the elevator, knowing that he’d come to her, she was in it with the doors closed before she could stop the doors from closing on her. “Damn it. Why do I have to suffer?

Damn it, Holly, why did you have to go and ruin all our lives when you decided to get yourself knocked up?” No one was in the elevator with her, she noticed and was saddened by that. There was no one to ask her what had happened. Well, she’d do it later when she had to drag Clayton out of here. Didn’t he remember that they had dinner plans with the Staffords tonight? Getting frustrated with him when she had to wait another twenty minutes on him, Eita decided that she’d just take the car and go home. Let him deal with getting home. She had things to do to get ready for tonight. She wouldn’t have to get all dressed up too much tonight, she realized. Thanks to Holly’s death, everyone would expect her to be sad and a little absentminded. Not that most of their friends knew how she felt about Holly. Eita planned on taking their sympathy to the next level. Something good may come out of this anyway. They would think that she and Clayton were real troopers for coming out on this day of all days. Eita wondered if she had a lovely black dress she could put on. Black wasn’t really her color, but she wanted to look washed out and in mourning. Although she was actually sort of glad to have Holly out of her life now. Out of all their lives. No more embarrassing looks when she was with her friends, and they saw her on the street. She’d not have to answer any more questions as to where the sister was either when she and Clayton had parties. Then there was the added bonus of having a real excuse to play up why they weren’t there. She was just getting ready to start the car and go home when she saw Clayton coming out of the hospital. He didn’t look her way but continued to speak to the man he was with. Whatever they were talking about, she’d find out later. It had to do with Holly and Marsden, she was sure. Eita had forgotten all about the hospital bill until this very moment.
She supposed it would be up to her to make sure that got paid off as well. Would anyone ever appreciate everything she did behind the scenes for them? More than likely not, she thought.

Dean Marshal’s Shadow Release Blitz &Giveaway

Isabella Booth was tired of all the sexist crap handed to her on a daily basis.  When her father wouldn’t even consider her as an heir to his lawn care business because she wasn’t a man, and left it to her brother Hunter instead, she had done the next logical thing. She opened her own lawn care business, and it thrived.

Dean Marshall was renovating his family home. As far as the landscaping was concerned, he was told to go big or go home. When Shep invited the owner of the landscaping company to his home for dinner, Dean wanted to be there to see about getting some things done for his place. He didn’t mean for his jaguar to knock the woman to the ground.

Bella was thoroughly pissed when the big cat ruined her jeans and favorite shoes, and when he announced that they were mates, Bella was seeing red. No way, no how, was she having another sexist, overbearing man in her life. Not if she could help it….

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Harrison Parker had no family and no ties. She was invisible to be traced. Her job with the government was top secret. So secret that she only reported to two people. Now, she was the target and she had to figure out who wanted her dead. Hurt, and laying low, she reached out to the only man she trusted, an old man she had befriended in the cemetery, Sheppard Marshall.

Sheppard Marshall had been grieving the loss of his Millie for the last fifteen years. He would sit by her grave every day. He was an old man of ninety, and he looked forward to the visits he received from the sassy woman, Harrison Parker. Over time he had grown very fond of her, and when he received the message that she needed his help, Sheppard would help her or die trying.

His grandson, Sheppard or Shep, wasn’t letting the old man go alone. If he got hurt, Shep wouldn’t be able to live with himself. Even though the Marshall men were jaguars, that didn’t mean the old man couldn’t get into a situation that got him hurt or possibly killed.

The bullet had gone clear through, but the poison it had been laced with left Harrison with a high fever and near death. Shep didn’t know what this woman was into, but he knew two things—she was dangerous, and she was his mate. What kind of mess had the old man gotten him into now?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Maria Dalmau
Katherine Humphreys
Sarah Black

 

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Dean had most of the bedrooms finished with the exception of furniture. He’d been working on making the rooms a little larger and decided that having three larger bedrooms was much nicer than having six small ones. He wondered at times when working how he and his brother Rodney, like Shep and Oakley, had managed to sleep in the same room and not smother one another. There was barely enough room in the closets for one person’s clothing, much less two of them. Not that Heath or Trenton were any smaller. They just seemed to have been able to work out the room size to suit themselves. Mom had done right by them, though. There might not have been as much room in the bedrooms as they needed, or even wanted, but there was plenty enough food for them to eat, as well as a roof over their heads. Their father hadn’t ever cared about that. At times he’d think about his father.

How he had been in prison for a time then got out, only to screw up again to get himself dead. To have found out that he’d murdered their mom was enough for anyone to turn against him. But for his father to think that it was justified because she’d been mean to him didn’t cut it as far as he was concerned. Just as he was coming down the stairs, he heard his grandda on the front porch. Taking the family home had afforded him plenty of company coming around all the time. All were welcome as far as he was concerned, and he always had fresh tea in the icebox in the event they might show up with a thirst. “Hey, Grandda, how’s it hanging?” He just loved this old man and was surprised to see him blush when he spoke to him like he did. “I’d think that after living with Harris all this time, you’d be used to the dirty comments and bad jokes.” “That girl. I tell you, Dean, I swear she was raised up by heathens. But I love her to pieces, and I can’t find a single thing about her that don’t make me smile. I came over to see if you had a date tonight.” Dean told him that he did, with him. “I know you and your brother Rodney are the babies of the family and all, but you all still need to get out there and date some. How you gonna find Mrs. Right if you’re all holed up in this house working all the time?” “Let me show you what I’ve been up to for a mate, if she ever comes around, to make our home one that can stand on its own.”

He took him to the bedrooms that he’d just left. “I’ve not told anyone, but Harris loaned me the money to get started on the house. She told me that once I got started on it, have a project or two done, then people that sold the equipment that I had would want me to try out their products. She promised me that she’d help me find the right fit for me.” Grandda walked into the bedroom that had been his and Rodney’s. It didn’t look a thing like it had before, because of the interior and exterior project that he had going on here. Grandda turned to him after looking around. “See? That’s the great part of it. It just blends right in with the everyday house. There are several components in this room that will make it more efficient. There aren’t any vents in any of the rooms here because everything is under the flooring. You know
as well as I do that when you get out of bed and put your feet on the cold flooring, it can make you feel about ten times colder than it really is.” Grandda agreed with him. “The water from the floors all goes to the basement to be heated up for the hot water tank. It’s cleaned, too, so that you can drink it.” “Where does this water come from? I mean, eventually, you’re going to run out, right?” Dean told him not if he was smart about it. “Tell me about what you did.” “There is a stream that flows under the house. I had no idea it was there until I had someone come out and show it to me.

It comes from the mountains behind the houses and flows into this stream year-round. Even if there is a drought, there is always plenty of water coming down to the stream.” He showed Grandda the windows next. “These are double-paned windows. Much better than the ones that we had in here before. The seals around them are better than anything I’ve ever worked with before. Even better, Harris told me, than what she has in her home. I did a lot of research on it.” There were other things in the room, too, things that he was happy to show his grandda. And like he had hoped he would, Dean got enough praise from him to make all the depression he’d been fighting lately just vanish. “Shep and Harris’s property. They have enough stuff on it that they don’t have to go beyond for things like meat and vegetables. You getting that done up too?” Dean was glad that he’d gotten his garden in. It had been late, but he’d been amazed at how many late crops he could still grow. “This is really amazing, son. I’m very proud of you.” “Thanks, Grandda. Some of the men that work with the Marshall House have been coming over here when they have time and showing me how to get my orchard in order. I have to admit, I was going to start out slow on that—just get me a few trees to start with. But Joe—he works for Shep—he told me to go big or just go home. So now I have two hundred fruit trees all planted, as well as a watering system that is much like the one in the house that keeps them watered. The garden that I’ve got in, it’ll be much too large for just me this year to harvest. Even with help, I think I’m going to have to learn how to cook so that I can use as much of it as I can.” Grandda asked him about meat. “I’m working on that.

I have to have young animals so they can get used to me, but I’ve already bought them—again, with help from a farmer not far from here. Next spring, I’m going to have fifty head of cattle brought in, and fifty pigs. There will be a hen house too, as well as ducks. I had no idea how helpful ducks were to a farm.” Taking his grandda out to the barn, he told him about the tradeoff he’d had with Marshall House. “So they can store things here in this barn for free if they let you use it when you need to. I like that. Bartering has been around forever, I’m betting. What are those things out there in that field?” He told him they were solar panels that would supply electricity, and thus heat, to the house. “No electric bill? I’m betting that the electric company don’t like that none too much.” “I don’t have to justify anything to them. And the extra that I have, which is a great deal since I live here alone, is being sold to a company that the Marshall House sells theirs to for a profit. It’s not as much as Shep is making, but I’ll get there.”

“You did this all in a month? My goodness boy, what will you have done in a year or two? This is wonderful.” Dean hugged his grandda. “You might be having yourself a grand house before this here thing is done. My goodness.” “Doing most of it by myself has helped me a great deal. If anything goes wrong or I have to extend things, then I’ll know how to do that without having to call in the professionals. I’m having a good time too.” Showing his grandda what else he’d been doing, it wasn’t hard for Dean to admit when he’d made mistakes here and there. There had been plenty of them at first, but he was getting better all the time. “I’m adding onto the back of the house. The kitchen is much too small for this house with all the improvements I’ve made. Plus, I wanted to be able to have an eat-in kitchen like Mom always had. Plus, a dining room to hold a few people if I wanted to have anyone over to watch the game or whatever.” Getting cleaned up to have dinner with his grandda, he thought of all the work he had to do today. But he wasn’t going to let it stress him out. The one thing that he’d learned from his mom—just one of the million and one things he’d learned from her— was to take time for your loved ones. You had no idea if they were going to be there when you woke up the next morning. She’d not been, as it turned out, and he was sorry for that daily. They made their way to the local steak house. It was a nice little drive. The trees were starting to turn colors—he could make them out now, knowing which colors were made by which trees. He’d been thrilled to learn that he had plenty of maple trees on his land, and was planning, again with the help of Joe, to get as much syrup from them as he could come late winter.

He started to tell his grandda that as he drove them in, but decided that if he didn’t have enough to give everyone, he’d just give it to him. Grandda was his hero. “I’ve been working at the grocery store for a while now. I just love seeing all the people around town. And I will admit that I’m a talker. But the things that you hear there, it would curl your tail if you let it. I’ve been thinking on getting some way to get some baskets ready for the holiday coming up. With what I’ve heard around, I’m betting that there is plenty I can do to get a few extra vegetables on a few tables.” Dean told him that he’d help if he wanted. “I might take you up on it. But I’m still in the planning stages right now. I mean, I know I can tell you about something, and you’d not blab it all over town. Some of these people are downright broke. Not even enough coming in for them to see to their bills, much less food on the table.” “Mom used to do stuff like that. Not give people the feeling that she knew they were broke—she’d be slick at it. Like she’d hear something, and one of us and her would gather up some things to share. Not so much they’d be suspicious about her showing up with a lot of stuff, but enough that they’d think she was doing just what she said she was doing—cleaning out the closets or something. Mom would bake up a few pies too. She’d say it was because whatever tree that the pie was made of had been especially fruitful that year.”

Dean smiled when he thought of the conversation he’d had with her once about having a cherry tree. “We didn’t even have most of what she’d bake the pies from. Like she would tell them that we boys had been out in the woods and come across some blackberries. She decided to share our good find with these people.
Then there was the cherry tree that she’d say was so pretty in the spring she just knew she was going to get a lot of pies from it. And there she was with a dozen of them.” “There ain’t no cherry tree on that property, is there?” Dean told him that there was now, but no, not when Mom had been baking there hadn’t been. “My Jill Ann. She was a good-hearted soul, she was. I miss her every day. I’m betting you do too.” “Every time I tear out a wall or put in a new electrical outlet, I think of her. She’d be all over helping me with this project, telling me what my mate someday would think of all this. Every time I pull out a wall and replace something on it, I write her name and the day that she passed on. So that someday someone will know that a great woman lived there.” Grandda told him that was a special thing he was doing. “It’s what any of us would do for her, I think. Our mom, she was something special.”

After they were finished with their meal and Grandda had a nice slice of pie with his, Dean told him of the things that he was working on outside the house. Grandda told him of all the things that he’d been up to, and by the time they parted ways, him dropping Grandda off at Shep’s house, Dean decided that they needed to do that once a week from now on. That way, they could catch each other up on their weeks. He might even suggest it to the others. ~*~ Hunter didn’t want his sister there, but there was little he could do about it. Talking Dad down and telling her that he demanded to see her had her coming, not running off so he had to fill Dad with stuff she’d told him. Well, stuff that he had in his head that she’d told him, none of it very good. He also mentioned to her that Dad had said that she was too old for birthday celebrations. He’d almost forgotten what today was. Of course, of all days, his dad was running behind. The man was never late for anything. Isabella Booth, his sister, was a pretty thing. He supposed she would almost have to be. He was handsome and well built, and their parents were both good looking, even for their age, Hunter thought. There was very little reason to have ever thought that she’d be ugly. Hunter wanted to think that he had something to do with it, but really, he was just her brother, not her parent. It hadn’t ever bothered him what she looked like so long as she wasn’t a boy.

Hunter knew his father well enough to know that he would never have left the family business to his sister. Hunter had made sure that Dad thought that Bella was just a greedy airhead that didn’t know a hoe from a whore. That was the way he’d been able to slant things in his favor. Hunter didn’t care how stupid or smart Bella or Dad was, so long as, now that he’d left the business to him, they stayed the fuck out of his business. While he didn’t know what this meeting was going to entail, he knew that it might be something he didn’t want his sister in on. “I’ve had enough.” When Bella stood up and walked to the door, he actually stared at her with his mouth open. No one ever walked out on Dad when he wanted to talk to them. Especially not his children. “If he comes in, you tell him I said to fuck off. I’m a fucking grown woman, and I’m not taking this shit anymore.”

Like he’d say that to his dad. He would, of course, but he’d be much nastier about it than she’d been. When she walked out of the house, Hunter just sat there, where he’d been when the butler told them that Dad was running behind. As soon as he heard her car startup, Hunter smiled. One more thing to dig the hole that would bury Bella when it came to anything that Dad left them in the will. He’d get it all, which was all he ever wanted in the first place. To be the man on top of everything. Getting up, he’d started for the bar when he heard their dad coming back. “What the hell are you doing, Hunter? It’s only nine in the morning.” Hunter said that he’d been trying to catch Bella. “What do you mean, catch her? I thought she’d stay and talk to me. Doesn’t she know what today is? It’s her birthday. I thought of all days she’d want to talk to me.” “I don’t think she wants to be around us anymore. She said that she was sick of waiting and that she was a grown woman.” Hunter didn’t think he’d ever be able to say a curse word to his dad. His mouth would never form them in front of him. But he had no such trouble lying to him. “She said that you aren’t ever going to demand anything of her again, Dad. She even told me that I shouldn’t be here either.”

“Oh yeah? I wonder why she’d say something like that. I mean, I’m trying to make amends here, for whatever I’ve done to her to make her so upset with me. Do you know what it might have been?” Hunter shook his head. “Well, I’ll try and call her later. But you and I need to talk about the business that you’re running. I’ve been hearing things that I just don’t care for, son. Are you having troubles? Do you need for me to step in and help you out? I can. It would be—” “No. I’m doing just fine, Dad. I swear. It’s running almost like you never left. You said that you’d give me the business to run, and that’s what I’m doing. You’ve not changed your mind, have you?” Dad told him that he’d not. “I don’t think you have to worry about Bella’s business like you did before. She will fail soon enough. You can count on that. A woman like her, growing up in this house, and she goes out and opens her own place. Bella did that so that she could act like she’s smarter than you. I don’t believe that, but she sure does.” “You go and get her and tell her that I’d like to talk to her as soon as she has time. Tell her…I don’t know. Tell her that I’d really like to see her. I miss her. If you weren’t around to tell me what she’s up to, I’d never know except for what little I can read in the papers.” Hunter didn’t think that Bella would come back here ever again with all the things he’d been telling her about Dad. None of it was true, but she didn’t know that, any more than Dad knew what Bella was really saying about him. “Also, you tell her that I’d very much like for her to come and have a few dinners with me every week. Now that your mother has left for her European vacation, it gets a little lonely around here. You tell her that, will you, Hunter?” “I will. And I have to say, Dad, that’s a wonderful idea.” Dad puffed his scrawny chest out like he was king of the world. Hunter was just barely able to catch himself from rolling his eyes when he turned away to leave, wondering where Dad had gotten the idea that their mom was on vacation. Turning back to his dad, he tried to act all humble. “She took my last cash, Dad.

Just demanded that I hand it over before she left. If she has all that money, why did she need mine too?” “I’m not sure of a lot of things of late to be honest with you, Hunter. Sometimes I have these memory spells, and I have to just rest a bit. By the way, I’ve been meaning to ask you. How are things going down at the lawn care service? I’ve been hearing things around town and such that things aren’t going as well as I’d hoped they would with you in charge. What are you doing?” Hunter told him it was just that, rumors, and that he had a handle on things. He told him not to worry. “It has my name on it, Hunter—of course, I’m going to worry. But you make sure you tell Bella everything I told you, Hunter. I’m not getting any younger here, and I miss her. I just can’t believe some of the things she does according to you. Like robbing her only brother. But then, from some of the things you’ve told me, I guess it’s no less than I could expect. Correct?” As he left the house, Hunter thought that his dad was wrong on that score. Bella was only good for one thing, and that was to be the scapegoat when he needed her to be. But he also knew that his dad had gotten stupider. The fact that he believed every word that came out of Hunter’s mouth just went to show just how dumb his father was. Hunter had been playing his father and sister against one another since he’d been old enough to figure some things out

First and foremost, Bella was very intelligent. Not just that, but she could make money. Easily. When she’d been just a kid, she’d figured out a way to make money by mowing lawns. At thirteen, she’d been able to get her own mower, as well as a weed eater and other yard equipment to carry along with her mower and little trailer. By the time she was fifteen, she’d been able to pay for a nice used truck that she’d never let him drive. She wasn’t even able to drive it until a year later. Stupid to pay for something that she’d not been able to use, Hunter had always thought. Bella had gotten out of school earlier too. At sixteen, she’d graduated an entire year before he’d been able to. It didn’t help that Hunter had had to repeat a few grades and didn’t graduate until he was almost twenty. But there she was, taking college classes on how to run her own business on a computer that she locked up every time she walked away from it. It just occurred to Hunter that Bella had always been selfish about her things. Not that he ever wanted to share with her. But she had nicer things and didn’t allow anyone to mess with them.

The day she turned eighteen, not only did she move out of the house Hunter still called home, but she moved not into a shabby apartment, but a house that she’d been able to purchase with her own money. That, too, was someplace he could never go to. While he had an idea where she lived, the actual address was something that she’d never share with him. He supposed she was smart on that score. He would have fucked that up for her if given the chance. Now, at twenty-three, not only did she have her own car, a home, as well as a fat bank account, Bella also had a multimillion-dollar business. Hunter would see the little signs in all kinds of yards and businesses, stating that Booth Landscaping was caring for this property. The only reason he knew about her bank account was because he would read about her being one of the wealthiest women in the entire state.

More than likely, the article had said, the country. Pulling into the front lot of her business, he was detained. He was forever detained there. Really, what it meant was, they were asking his sister how badly she wanted to make him gone. He’d never been on this lot, and he was reasonably sure he never would be. Bella actually had wild dogs roaming the place after it closed down. He knew that because he’d tried to get in at that time, and had nearly had his ass torn off by them. “She said to tell you that you need to go back and suck up more to your father. She’s busy.” He hated that the entire company seemed to know that Hunter didn’t care for him. “Miss Booth also said to tell you that you’re not getting money or a job, nor are you going to get in to steal from her.” “What a thing to say to her own brother. You tell her that I have a message from our dad.” The man not only went into the booth to talk on the phone to Bella, but he closed the door. Hunter could see him laughing like it was a huge joke on their part to have a good time with him. Being her older brother had counted for nothing to her, and he was frankly sick to death of it. Before he could pound on the door and tell the man he wanted the fuck in, he came out with his hand on his gun. Fucking shit.

Had she ordered him to shoot her only brother? “Miss Booth said for you—” “I know who the fuck she is. You don’t have to keep saying her name as if I haven’t any idea that my sister is here. What the hell could she say to me that has you ready to blow my head off?” “Miss Booth said that if you don’t leave here now, she’s going to have me drag your dead body into the lot and let the police know that I had to kill you for trespassing.” The man leaned down to the window. “You go on and try to run the gates, Hunter, and I’ll have you dead before you cross your front tires over the electric eye that will lock you down.” Terrified that he’d do just that, he slammed the car into reverse and hit the gas. He got no more than three inches before his entire body was slammed forward, then back. Whatever he’d hit, he was sure that it had killed him. Getting out of his car, he held his head where blood was making it impossible to see what it was that had rammed him from the rear. Looking at the large truck, one of the kind that he was sure could pull a house down the road, Hunter was satisfied that he’d at least done some damage to it. “What the hell? You hit me.” The man, a huge monster of a guy, got out of the car, and Hunter revised his thought about the truck and the house. This man would need this type of truck to pull him around. “Did you even look in your rearview mirror before you backed up like you did?” “You hit me. I was trying to see my sister, who owns this business, and you rammed me.” Hunter loved the way the lies just slipped from his mouth like piss did from his dick.

“What did you think was going to happen to your truck when you came up on me so fast? My sister isn’t going to be happy about this.” “Your sister doesn’t give two shits about you.” The guard again. That mother fucker needed to keep to his own business. “Hello, Mr. Marshall. Miss Booth is expecting you. If you’d like to go on ahead there, the man on the other side will take you to her now. I’ve already called the police, and I’m making a recording of the entire incident as we speak to hand over to them. Obviously, it was this man’s fault for being too afraid to even drive properly.” “You have no idea what you’re talking about. I wasn’t the least bit afraid of you.” Hunter tried to shut his mouth, but again, things were flowing faster than he could stop them. “I was sitting still when he drove his excuse to compensate for his tiny dick into my car.” The man didn’t even pause as he made his way into the gate to the waiting golf buggy, leaving him there as if he was going to be the one that took the blame on this. Hunter looked at the guard that was standing there with his hand still on his gun.

The sirens sounded just as he was trying to figure out how he was going to get home. As soon as the two cruisers pulled up, the cops came out of the cars, hiding behind their car doors with their guns drawn and yelling at him to drop to the ground. Hunter put his hands up but refused to drop like he was some sort of animal. “Are you insane? Do you have any idea how much it cost me to clean this suit? More than I want to spend again.” He put his hands down. “Now listen here, you have no right to arrest me. That other man, he hit me.” “Moron.” The guard walked by him and handed the police something. “He backed into Mr. Marshall’s truck after arguing with me about going inside. It’s all on that recording for you.” Hunter found himself arrested and getting in the back of the cruiser before he could think how to lie himself out of this mess. Just as his neck was being bent so that his head wouldn’t get hurt on the doorframe, he looked at the building and saw his sister standing there. His tongue was so tied up when he saw her that he couldn’t speak—not to yell at her to come to help him or anything else.

Standing there, with the sun behind her and leaning against one of the many trucks, the vision that she was made him realize just how gorgeous Bella had become. He supposed that she was when she’d been at the house earlier. But then she’d been dressed in a pair of sweats and a dirty T-shirt. One that had her name on it. Looking at her now, he could see that she’d not only cleaned up, but she’d dressed up too. The skirt hung just mid-thigh, slick tight and black. The blouse she was wearing was a bright white. The slimness of it made her look curvy and grown up. When the hell had that happened? Hunter never got a chance to ask her that, or any of the other million questions that were going through his head. Almost as soon as the door was shut, he found himself being taken to jail. Unfairly too, he thought.

Ronan Foster Pride Release Blitz & Giveaway

 

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 responsible 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….

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Maria Dalmau is the winner, Please allow 7 to 10 days for delivery

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Maria Dalmau
Katherine Humphreys

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Happy Reading,

 

 

Prologue
Ten years ago
Brook woke and sat up in her bed. With no time to think about what was wrong, she rushed to the window nearest to her bed and pushed out the screen as she threw up. Her belly tossed up her dinner several more times as she leaned out, not even caring if she fell out the window or not. Christ, she’d never been sick a day in her life, and right now, she thought that her body was making up for it all in one illness. Rolling over so that she could sit on the floor, she was sure there was nothing else inside her. Brook closed the window and leaned her head back on the wall. She was wide awake now, and other than feeling a little weak, she felt better than she had when she’d woken up, that was for sure. Getting up and brushing her teeth at the window again, she spit the bottled water she’d used out the window as well. Dressing in sweatpants and an old hoodie, she made her way downstairs to the kitchen. Brook had grown up in this house. She knew every creaking step, loose board, and any doors that squeaked. She used to take care of those but now found them to be handy when she thought that no one else was in the house with her. There was no way anyone was sneaking up on her again. The house had belonged to her parents. When her dad was killed when she was five, it was just her and her mom living there. Then one day, when she came home from school—she’d been seven then—a man by the name of Allen Quarter had moved in. Two days after that, her mom married him at the courthouse. Again, she’d been at school when it happened. It had been a horrible five years with Allen there. The man had knocked Brook around, as well as her mother. There was never a time when one or both of them wasn’t covered in bruises or cuts. The house became a place of danger and anger for her, and she would spend a lot of her time at the library. They didn’t even get any kind of reprieve from him going to a job. Allen didn’t work but did expect her mom to. He even made Brook take an after school job of babysitting someone’s children. It was a nightmare of being knocked down, locked in closets for hours at a time, and tending to her mother when Allen would hurt her too badly. When Brook turned twelve and a half, an awful thing happened to her. Her mother died in a horrific car accident—her father had died the same way on the same highway. They had just crashed their cars into a light pole, which no one could explain.

Brook was devastated. She had no one left to go to. No family at all except for Allen. Brook vowed that when she was old enough, she was moving out. Soon, she told herself. It would be soon now. Then Brook found out that she was way smarter than her stepfather, which wasn’t hard to be. But she turned out to be extremely smart. She also had the ability to not just remember things, but she could see the word, the dictionary definition of it, as well as how the word could be used.
As she passed through the kitchen, feeling better all the time, she picked up an apple for herself and a handful of nuts for the squirrel that came around. Taking the knife she’d bought out of its hiding place, Brook checked to make sure that her backpack was where she’d left it. Thankfully, it was untouched.

At almost seventeen, Brook had a lot going on in her life. She had a full-time job that her stepparents didn’t know about, money in a safe deposit box, as well as a car that she had stashed someplace they’d never find it, waiting for the day when the two of them either tried to hurt her again and she had to run, or—and this one scared her the most—they would kill her. Just as, Brook thought, they had killed her mother. Cindy Quarter was her stepmother. Not four days after her mother’s funeral, Cindy and her two kids had moved into her family home. Allen married her at the courthouse too. He even stapled their marriage certificate on the wall so that Brook would always understand who was in charge. The two children that Cindy had were Allen’s. Brook had been looking for her mother’s will when she came across their birth certificates. Not only had they been fathered by Allen, but he’d fathered them while he’d been married to her mom. Sadly, Brook had found her mother’s marriage certificate to Allen while looking around. She had hoped that they weren’t married and that he wasn’t her stepfather.

Brook had a lot of her hopes dashed. It was beginning to seem like she’d never had anything good happen to her. Eating the apple, she threw the core to the squirrel too. He was a fat little guy— thanks, she thought, to her feeding him. She hoped that he was sharing his food with a family someplace, and telling them how thankful they should be for her treats. Brook didn’t get many people thanking her or even saying a kind word to her in this house. The car coming down the street startled her. They were at the end of the road they lived on, and once someone passed the neighbor’s house, about a mile away, there was nowhere else to go. So unless they were lost, they were coming to their home. It was one in the morning. Tensing up when the car turned their lights off to pull into their driveway, she looked around to see where the squirrel was. Sometimes Allen would invite his friends over to shoot at the little animals around the house. Brook didn’t want anyone or anything hurt by them. Hearing Allen coming down the stairs like the hounds of hell were after him, she put the knife in her coat pocket in the event that she might need it. Whatever was going on, it could not bode well for her, as Allen had been trying his best to run her off for months now. The lights were off in the house right now, but if the kitchen lights came on, someone would see her, she realized. Moving to the other side of the window, she knew she would be safe, especially dressed in dark clothing the way she was. Unless, of course, someone came out on the porch and turned on the outside light.

When Butch Salmon got out of his car, she could see that his brothers were there with him. The four of them together didn’t have a brain cell between them, not to mention a full set of teeth. Every time she saw them, Brook would have a fear in her heart so deep that nothing but getting away would make her feel better. They were not just bad news but were horrific people. They were drunken assholes that would steal pennies from their own mother’s eyes if she were dead. Butch was the worst of the four of them, and he’d been trying to corner her for the last several months. Even to have him breathe in her direction made her ill with fear. Butch had a streak of evil in him that was wider than he was. Of course, Allen and Cindy loved the man and told her that she was nuts, that no one would want her skinny ass, and to let him kiss her, and he’d be done. No, he would not. She didn’t know how she was so sure of that, but she was so sure that he’d rape her then toss her to his brothers that she’d started carrying a knife around. A switchblade that was longer than her hand. When Butch and Allen were standing on the front porch, Brook turned on her phone to record them. She’d been getting really good at figuring out her phone without looking at it, and tonight was no different. Brook had also begun saving any and all conversations that she happened upon in case she came up missing—or worse yet, dead. “I’m here to get Brook.” Brook felt her body freeze when Butch said that. “You doped her up, right? I don’t want no fighting her for some of that pussy, Allen. You said that we could have our fun so long as we killed her afterward. Then her body could be found for the insurance money you got coming to you.” “I did it.

I’ve only just put the kids to bed now. They’re locked up in their rooms. I even gave them a little of that fentanyl shit that Cindy brought home from the hospital for Brook so that they’d not hear a single thing.” They both laughed, and she wanted to throw up again. “I think I got it right this time. I know the last time you came for her, I’d not given her enough. Christ, even Cindy was surprised that it didn’t knock her on her ass like it should have. She was telling me that a man three times her size would have been out for days. She’s out now, I tell you, Butch. Out like a stone. I went by her room and knocked to see if she’d answer me, and got nothing.” Before? She tried to think when the last time might have been and couldn’t remember. When the other three Salmon brothers got out of the car and went into the house, Brook stood up and thought about how safe she’d be to walk by the window to get her things just as the light in the kitchen came on. She checked her phone to see that it was still recording, and left it by the window as she moved to the door. “I’m going to be so glad to have that bitch out of my life. Who knew that her mother would be leaving this house and the insurance to her daughter? I never would have killed off her husband and her if I thought I’d have to take the brat in too.

You have no idea what it’s been like here with her, Butch. She’s nothing but a pain in my ass the way she just walks around, not speaking to any of us unless we talk to her. She won’t even go out to dinner when we do. Like she’s embarrassed about us. Damned fucking girl. All I want to do every time I see her is stab her in the head. This is going to be working too. That money, double on account of her momma dying the way she did, will set us up for life.
Then there is the policy we took out on her. We’re going to be sitting pretty, I tell you, just as pretty as a picture.” Butch asked if they were going to be living in this house.

“Nah, you and your brothers should move in. It won’t be no sweat off my balls if you do. Tear it up, I don’t care. I hate this fucking house anyway. Well, we should get her out of here before Cindy comes home. She don’t want to be here when she disappears. That way, she has herself an ally-by so that we don’t look like we did it.” Brook thought that Allen would spell it just like he said it too. Ally-by, like that, as the way it was pronounced. Moron. As soon as the light in the kitchen was off, she made her way to the back door to the house. She hadn’t counted on Raymond, one of the Salmon brothers, staying behind, and was startled to see him standing in the kitchen. Reaching blindly for the backpack, never taking her eyes off him as he stared out the window over the sink, Brook had her bag and boots before he saw her. Her heart was pounding so hard she wondered why no one had found her from the sound. As soon as she stepped off the porch into the yard, she heard Allen yelling for her. Butch even shouted out for her like she was going to come running because he told her to.

Turning off her phone, she made her way to the orchard that the neighbors had behind their home. Brook had helped them two summers ago to hang up security cameras as well as lighting when the Quarter family started stealing the fruit and throwing it at passing cars. It would have been different if they were eating it, but they were wasting it, as they did everything they had. After he caught the Quarters stealing from him, they no longer went there. They bitched about it like Mr. Shirley had done them wrong. After the police were called on them and they were told that the next time they did it, they’d be arrested, they just bitched, which she was glad for.

Mr. Shirley and his wife were good people. Trying to decide where to go with the information she had, not to mention someplace they couldn’t hurt her, Brook made her way to the police station. She had been good friends with a lot of the men there. Two of them had helped her get her emancipation paperwork so that she didn’t have to depend on the Quarters for anything. Officer Harland Sheppard was in house this morning, and he was more than glad to see her. Taking her to the chief’s office after she told him what she knew, they listened to the entire conversation while she was given time to calm down. She’d almost been caught twice more when she left the house and would have without the help of a little man named Bert. Butch and his brothers had been out looking for her, using a light like the police did to find missing criminals. Lucky for her, she’d been warned about them coming, and had been able to hide behind another car. “He drugged you up?” She nodded and told Chief Donald Shoe about being sick and how she had thrown up out her window. “All right, honey. You just stay right here, and we’ll run over there. Better yet, I’m going to send you over to the hospital to get you checked out. I’ll send an officer with you.”

He looked at Harland. “We’re going to need to take children’s services to make sure them kids are all right.” In less than two hours, she had tested positive for fentanyl. The nurse who had examined her was really upset about it too. Apparently, even with her getting sick from the drug, she had enough left in her body to have killed her. Not, she told Brook and the officer, that it would take all that much. They put her on an IV drip to run it out of her system and put her in a private ER room to keep her safe. The officer said he’d not leave her door until they had everything taken care of. She had no idea what that meant or how long that would be, but Brook only laid on the bed and thought about what would happen if they didn’t arrest the Quarters. She’d be in deeper shit than she was now. ~*~ Cindy made her way home so excited that she could nearly bust with it. Being let off early had been a real treat. She just hoped that things were finished up by the time she got home. It was difficult for her at times while working because she didn’t want to give away any information about the little bitch Brook. Being a registered nurse was a good job and had helped them out with this thing so much. However, if she lost her job, they’d have nothing until the insurance money was paid.

And for her, that couldn’t come fast enough. Pulling in the driveway had her confused. Several things popped into her head as she sat there in the car. The police were inside her home, and several cruisers were sitting there with their lights still on. The second thing was, she just knew that Allen had killed Brook before the Salmon boys could take her away. If he’d fucked up, then he was on his own with this. Not that it mattered really how Brook was dead, because gone was gone, but for some reason, she didn’t think that was it. Just as she opened the door to her car, a gurney came out of the house with her babies on it. Junior was ten, of course, and Bethy was eight, but they were hers, and she rushed to them to see what had happened. Unable to wake them, she asked the man pushing the gurney what they’d done to them. Instead of answering her, the officer with them told her to get out of the way and shoved them into a waiting ambulance. The police wouldn’t even allow her to go with them. Cindy went to find out what the hell was going on. “Mrs. Quarter. It’s nice of you to join us.” She sat down where Chief Shoe told her. “I was just having a conversation with your husband here about your children. Did you know that all three of them had been drugged?”

“I only have two children. Brook isn’t either of ours. We—I guess you could say inherited her. What do you mean, my babies have been drugged?” She looked at Allen. “What did you do?” “I didn’t do shit, Cindy. I think that Brook did it.” She realized her mistake when Allen glared at her. “They all have something in their bloodstream, and it’s made them be knocked out. The officer here was telling me that someone complained about it. I was just asking him how anyone would complain about shit since the kids are right here.”

“Yes, he was telling me that. But he doesn’t seem to be able to account for Brook Garrett. He said that she was here at nine, but now he doesn’t know where she might be.” She didn’t know either, so kept her mouth shut. “And believe it or not, he’s got no explanation at all as to why there is vomit outside her window with enough fentanyl in it to fell a black bear. Then there are the vials of fentanyl in his sock drawer with not just his, but your fingerprints on them as well. Do you know why there are nine vials of that nasty drug in yours and your husband’s room that are property of the nearby hospital?” “I don’t know, no.” She had to think. Whatever happened next was going to be quite literally life or death for the two of them. “I work there as a registered nurse and have for eleven years. I’ve never had a problem before.” Shoe nodded and pulled something toward him. Cindy could see that it was a report from the hospital about her being written up several times for missing drugs, missing gloves, as well as a plethora of other things that she’d brought home.

If they were to have walked into any room in this house, they’d see a lot of shit with the hospital label on it. “Well, someone better be telling me something, or there will be some repercussions. You don’t want anything coming back on you that will have an effect on the rest of your lives, now would you?” Allen asked why they were responsible for Brook and where she was. “Because she’s sixteen, and even though she’s been caring for herself for some time, you still were responsible for her.” “What do you mean, she’s been taking care of herself? She lives here. Eats the food we bring in here. We pay for her overhead and things that she needs.” Shoe asked if they were sure about that. “Of course, I’m sure. We’ve made sure that she gets to school and that she has a coat to wear in the winter. All the stuff that comes with having a kid in the house.” “When was the last time you saw her eat at the table with you? Or better yet, what grade is Brook in? Do you have any idea when the last time was that you bought her a coat for the winter months?” Cindy said that she’d gotten her one last fall. “Did you now? What about school? Can you tell me where she goes or what her grades are?” She had no idea. It just occurred to her that she didn’t have any idea when the last time was she’d even signed a report card for the bitch. As for the coat, Cindy wasn’t sure that it had been this previous fall that a coat had been bought for her, or anything at all now that she’d thought about it. Cindy didn’t even know when her fucking birthday was. “I don’t remember that much about her like that because she’s older and does for herself.”

Shoe nodded. “What I mean is, she keeps her room clean, and she does her chores when she’s told. As for her grades, I’m assuming that she’s doing well, or they would have let us know by now.” “Would you be surprised to know that Brook is a senior in college?” She couldn’t be that old, Cindy thought. “How about that she graduated from high school with honors two years ago at the age of fourteen? At that time me and a couple of other men at the department took her before the judge and had her declared an adult so she could take college classes that would help her finish up her chosen career when she had that all mapped out.
Which, I might add, she had paid for by the state because of her being an orphan and all.” “No, that can’t be right. She’s as dumb as a post.” She just laughed. “What does this have to do with anything? What is wrong with my children? My children. Where is she? Because I’m sure as I’m sitting here that this is all her fault.” He pulled out a recorder, and before she could protest about him recording this conversation without her say so, he pushed a button, and she heard her husband and Butch Salmon’s voices. While it played, Cindy just stared at Allen. “I’m here to get Brook. You doped her up, right? I don’t want no fighting her for some of that pussy, Allen. You said that we could have our fun so long as we killed her afterward.

Then her body could be found for the insurance money.” “I’ve only just put the kids to bed now. They’re locked up in their rooms. I even gave them a little of that fentanyl shit that Cindy brought home from the hospital for Brook so that they’d not hear a single thing.” As their voices continued to drone on, Cindy tried to think what she was to do now. This crap just got real, and she didn’t want to go to prison for that bitch. Then there were her babies that would be left behind. When Shoe stepped away from the table to answer his phone, Cindy eyed the door. She could make it, she told herself. As she started to rise, one of the officers moved to stand in front of it with his gun out as another one stood next to the table. He was close enough that Cindy could tell what cologne he was wearing. When Shoe came back, the officer near them moved away, but the one at the door stayed where he was. Whatever Shoe had to say, she had a feeling that it was going to be the end of her trying to distance herself from her husband. The moron had told them that she was bringing home the drug to dope up Brook to have her killed. “Well, now. That was the hospital. Your kids were tested for fentanyl, and you’re not going to believe what they found.” Oh, Cindy had a good idea about what they found. But what it was going to mean for them, now that was the real question.

“They found that not only was that drug in their system but that it wasn’t the first time they’d been doped up with it. Seems that it was in their water bottles. Brook had one in her room too. Testing it was how we knew how much could have been in her system. Not a good thing going on here, I have to tell you.” “She did it.” That wasn’t going to fly anymore either, and she wanted to tell Allen that. They had the smoking gun, so to speak. “Brook made it look like she doped herself and then drugged the kids. I want her arrested. No. I want her right here to tell me what the hell she was thinking.” “She’s in the hospital, right along with your children. All three of the children are in my care now.” Shoe stood up. “I’m arresting the two of you under suspicion of three counts of attempted murder. Also under suspicion of the murder of Brook’s parents, Brock and Lynn Garrett. Insurance fraud….” They were cuffed while Shoe went on about what they were being arrested for. Cindy didn’t even question where that information had come from. She had no doubt that Allen had been talking too much, and now they were going to prison.
Then something occurred to her. “What about my babies? What’s going to happen to them?” Shoe said that they’d be put in foster care. “No. You can’t do that to them. They’re just kids. I want you to let me go, and Allen will take the blame for this all. I need to be with my babies.” “Perhaps you should have thought of that when you were plotting to have Brook raped and murdered for the insurance money.” Richard laughed again, and Cindy could have gladly murdered him too. “I’m thinking you two will have a lot of time to think about what you’ve done. Not to mention where your children might be living from now on.”

Wyatt The Stanton Pack Release Blitz & Giveaway

 

The explosion on the school bus had affected everyone in the town one way or another, including the Stantons. Bryn had been driving the bus when the bomb had detonated. Injured herself, she was the only one to go back into the flames to help rescue the few injured and retrieve the dead. She died a few days later from her injuries.

Sidney Daniels, Bryn’s best friend, flew into town to see Bryn’s father, Les. She wanted him to know about a lot of things, but also that she and Bryn had been conducting an investigation before all this happened. Sidney was sure Bryn was the target. Now she had people following her too.

When Wyatt Stanton went to the airport to pick up Sidney, he wasn’t prepared for the woman to wrap her body around him and plant the most intoxicating kiss on his lips that he’d ever had. She had done it as a diversion to shake the guy trailing her, but Wyatt couldn’t think of a better way to discover his mate.

Sidney wasn’t as impressed. She was here to shake things up, and the guy better get on board, or she was going knock some sense into him.

 

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Dane had no idea who she was. She’d been shot and couldn’t even remember who she was hiding from. All she did know was she needed help, and when Julian Stanton found her, he took her to his family.

Brayden Stanton was just tired of everything. It was time to leave Africa and go home to family. He called his dad to tell him that he was fed up with the job and he was on his way home, and he was bringing a fiancée with him. She wasn’t his mate, but he was going to make it work. He realized his mistake the moment he proposed.

Danger comes at every turn. The women in Brayden’s life are surrounded with it. Both are lethal, but one has Braden’s heart from the beginning. The question is, can the family survive it?

 

 

Being a country lawyer was something Christian Stanton had always wanted to do. Taking a client he really didn’t want to represent was not what he had in mind.

Allie had been hired to teach the Stanton men hand to hand self-defense. She loved her job and was quite good at it. She knew about shifters, but had never really worked with them before. And when the big cat shifted into a very naked man proclaiming to be her mate, Allie wanted nothing to do with him.

When it came to Allie, Christian was in big trouble. She was no pushover and the sooner he figured that out the better off he’d be….

 

 

 

Julian Stanton was eating breakfast and rethinking his life as a PI when a stranger walked into the diner looking for Tess O’Rourke. Julian felt the hackles rise on his neck. He wanted to take his gun out and blow this guy’s head off for no apparent reason other than he didn’t like him. He’d never had an instant dislike for a person before. He didn’t know who Tess was, but he was going to make sure this stranger didn’t find her.

Tess was at her wit’s end. Dexter had once been her best friend, now she couldn’t get far enough away from him. He was everywhere, attacking her at every corner, emptying her bank account, and now he was after her baby daughter, Ruby. Only the Lord knew what he’d do to the baby if he got his hands on her.

Sent by his parents to help, Julian was to be Tess’s escort to the family home for dinner. The hotel was no longer safe since Dexter had found her there too. When she opened the door, she shoved the most precious squalling baby girl into his arms that Julian had ever seen. And when the woman walked by him, her scent hit him like a brick.

The job went from a favor to personal in the blink of an eye, and Julian would protect the girls in his life with his own if necessary.

 

Hailey Whitehead was on the trip back home and everything was going as planned until a brief stop for lunch changed everything. The guy came into the diner waiving a gun and shouting orders and Hailey shot him.

Hailey knew what would come next, so when the cops arrived, she was on her knees with her pistol dangling from one finger and her permit to carry in the other hand. What she hadn’t counted on was an overzealous cop cuffing her too tight and leaving her on her own for far too long. By the time Jules Stanton discovered her predicament, she had nearly bled out.

Wyatt had performed the surgery on her wrist and he was worried that she would lose the use of her hand. He asked Dane to help her out with a few drops of her blood, but that didn’t go as planned either. Haylie had an unexpected reaction to Dane’s blood, and when she woke up, not only was she healed, she was no longer entirely human.

She was having the worst week of her life, and the Stantons “helping” her was only making things worse. She just wanted them to leave her alone. Now Colton, another Stanton, was telling her that she was his mate? The last thing she needed was a man ordering her around. Not no, but hell no!

 

 

Rachel Spencer, Ray to those that knew her, was barely hanging on. She had called for help, but her father had nearly killed her before help had arrived. Unless Hailey could help her, with the magic given to her by Dane, Ray’s prognosis for a normal life wasn’t good. Levi Stanton had been talking to his sister-in-law, Hailey, through their link. She had told him all about Ray and that Ray might be his mate, or Wyatt’s. Levi hoped she was, he had known Ray’s grandmother and loved the woman, but he was also terrified to find out. It was the fear of the unknown.Levi was happy to find out that Ray was indeed his mate, but Ray’s decision to get help from Hailey would be Ray’s alone. Hailey, however, was afraid her blood wasn’t strong enough to help Ray, so Dane stepped in. Ray would need all the strength she could get to face her Aunt Caroline.Caroline Spencer was on her way to town. No one told that woman no and lived to tell about it. And that was exactly what Ray was going to tell her too. There was no way on this earth that Ray was handing her little brother, David, over to that tyrant. She’d die before she let that happen.

 

 

The Stanton Pack
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Christian http://amzn.to/2gUfYgI
Julian  http://amzn.to/2GIKgMS
Colton  https://amzn.to/2nbOG5M
Levi  https://amzn.to/2KhvGS0
Wyatt https://amzn.to/2RheqMK

 

 

 

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Les watched the people go up to the closed casket and put their hand on it. She wasn’t in the box. His Bryn had been used up, to help other people in need. Thinking of his youngest child, he tried to tell himself that he’d done right by her, done what she’d wanted, but all he could think about was that she was gone from his life. Walker, his son, sat down beside him. Les wanted to tell him to leave him alone for a while, but he wouldn’t. The service was about to begin. “Dad, when this is over, I’d like to talk to you.” Nodding, Les was startled when both Addie and Kitty sat down on his other side. It was all he could do not to burst into tears. His family was there. Bryn had died five days ago. The accident, or whatever it was that had taken her life over two weeks ago, was still being investigated. Les wanted answers, and he wanted them yesterday. There were a great many questions he had too. But the ones he needed answers for were, who had put the explosive device on her bus? Who was the little girl that had been the target of the explosion? Why had she been targeted in such a way?

Mostly, however, he wanted to know why someone would have made his daughter go back into the burning bus to bring out the ones that had passed away, a decision that he was going to get to the bottom of. Because it was what had caused her death. The service was short, just the way that his family had requested. No one here really knew his daughter, nor did they have a lot of knowledge about his other children. They were headed to the cemetery when he realized that his phone had a message on it. Listening to it on the way, he wasn’t the least bit surprised to hear from his ex-wife, Meadow. “I suppose you think that I’m happy with you pulling the plug on my baby girl. Well, in the event you haven’t gotten it, I’m not. And I’m taking you to court over it. It wasn’t up to you to do a fucking thing to my child. Did the others know? Or did they only find out by reading the paper as I had to do? You fucking bastard. I—” He looked over at his other children, who had insisted that he allow them to hear it as well. “I guess she ran out of time,” Les observed. Walker snickered, and his wife smacked him soundly on his chest. “I’ll talk to her later. And I did try and locate her. I want you to know that.” “All of us did, as well.” Addi showed him her phone. “I tried to call her even before we left the hotel this morning. Walker and I didn’t even have the right number. Dane gave us what she’d been able to find out from her last known address.” Arriving at the cemetery, Les said they’d talk about it later. He felt his eyes fill with tears as he made his way to the little tent where the casket was now sitting. Bryn had only been twenty-six years old, and now she was gone. She’d been working as a bus driver for privileged children to take them to and from school. Bryn had to pick them up in a well-equipped limo-like bus that even had bulletproof glass all around them.

There was air conditioning for them, as well as heat. Nothing like the buses that he had ridden to school when he’d been younger. The butler for one of the students had given it to the child in an envelope, or, and this was what Dane thought, someone had put a bomb on the bus. Dane told him that she was doing some research on it now and would have answers soon. Les had never known anyone with the sort of connections that she seemed to have. While he knew that his daughter’s organs had been donated to others and that her body had been cremated, he needed the casket, an empty one, to prove to himself that this was for her. He had no idea why that helped him because it was an illusion, but as he sat there, he thought about his little girl. When she was a child, he’d been so proud of her knack for figuring things out. Bryn had been smart, sociable, as well as a caring person. When he’d gone a little crazy—he knew that now—he’d sent them all away, including her, so that they’d be safe. Les didn’t remember now what he’d been keeping them safe from. It had taken her getting hurt, then dying, for him to see what a fool he’d been. His phone vibrated in his pocket, but he didn’t bother pulling it out to have a look. Whoever it was, he didn’t have any reason to speak to them now.

He looked at the people around the gravesite and wondered, not for the first time, why he’d broken connections with Denny Stanton. Denny had been his best friend, not just when they were children, but as adults too. When his children had been born, it had been Denny that had brought them into the world. He and his wife Lucy had been there for Les for a long time. Then he’d gotten a burr up his ass, and had broken ties with just about everyone, including his children. Les didn’t want to blame Meadow for his paranoia, but the more he thought about her, the more he realized that she’d done this to him. She’d had him afraid to drive his car, leave the house, or even to open an envelope. Meadow had told him of things that she’d heard here and there. Things that her hairdresser had told her, a man who did hair for the most influential people around—including mobsters. It had all been a lie. “I’ve looked over records as far back as when Walker was born. Your wife had left a trail of men all over the place. I’m assuming that was why you divorced her.” Les told Dane that he’d married her because she’d been pregnant with Walker.

“Nah, she wasn’t pregnant with anyone’s child at the time you married her. She was just coming from a relationship with a mobster by the name of Wendel Kelly. Kelly kicked her to the curb when he found her blowing one of his men for a ride to another lover’s home. Meadow was playing a lot of men back then.” “But I’m the one that married her. Are any of the children mine?” Dane shook her head. “I don’t know why that never occurred to me before this. Not even Walker, then.” “No. I’m sorry for that. And I can find out who their fathers are if you want, but I don’t think it will mean a hell of a lot at the end of the day, do you?” He shook his head at her. “Also, you might not want to know this, but Bryn knew it. She’d had a DNA test done of herself sometime after she got out of high school. I don’t know how she got the tests done for the others, but she had records in her apartment. She has a great deal of information on you, but mostly her mother.

Bryn would have worked well in a police department. She was that good.” “Thank you.” Dane handed him a few things that she’d taken out of Bryn’s apartment. There wasn’t much in the way of personal things—a few pictures, not even a computer. But there had been notebooks about things that she’d discovered. He wondered if anything that she’d dug up on her mother would have been bad enough to have had Meadow turn against her. Les asked Dane. “Nothing that I could find as yet. There are a couple of more places that I have to look. Your daughter had two safety deposit boxes that I’m getting ready to go through, and a friend of hers, a Sidney Daniels, has a few things that belonged to her.” Les asked if she was going to see Sidney. “She’s coming here tomorrow. It was the soonest that she could get away. She and Bryn were best friends, she told me. And she wants to talk to you. Before you ask, no, she’s not holding a grudge against you or anything.” “Da?” He looked at Walker and realized that the service was over. “Are you all right? You look like you’re exhausted. I know you’re not eating enough.” “I’m all right. It’s just more than I thought that I’d be doing for one of my children.” When he stood up, he nearly fell back on his ass, but someone behind him caught him. It was Wyatt. The man had been helpful to him for the last few days. “Thank you.” “Your son is right. You do look a little more than exhausted. And I’ve told you that you have to eat more than a half of a bagel. Let’s go to my parents’ house, and I’ll check you out. You need to take care of yourself, Mr. Mackenzie.”

Nodding at the young man, he was helped to the car. “Also, I’m going to have you go into the hospital for a couple of days to have you checked out. You need to take better care of yourself.” For what, he wanted to ask him, but Walker came over and helped him to the car as well. Leaning a little more on Wyatt, Les let them take him to the car. It was over. His daughter was well and truly gone. Les cried all the way back to the house, where there was going to be a reception. He had no idea what people would say to him, nor did he have a clue what he should say to them when they told him that they were sorry. Les was sorry too. Sorry for a great many things that they had no idea about. He’d thought of himself as a good father. He and Meadow had had some fights. Well, that was an understatement—they’d had some doozies. But he’d never allowed the kids to be a part of their fights. Now that he thought back on things, he thought for sure they’d heard a great deal more than he’d meant for them to. There were a great many people at the house when they pulled in, so many that he found himself shying away from it. Wyatt must have seen how nervous he was and took him to the back of the home to where Denny had a small practice. Once he was in the room with a gown on, Les felt every ache he’d ever had. “I’m going to give you a little something to help you relax. Your blood pressure is a little higher than I’d like it to be. You just lay back, and I’ll give this to you. If you feel like you need to fall asleep, do it, Mr. Mackenzie. You’re overwrought and too stressed out.” The pinch to his arm wasn’t that bad, but almost as soon as Wyatt rubbed the place again, he could feel the drugs moving over his body.

“Let go and allow yourself to rest. You need that more than anything.” Drifting off, Les saw his daughter there, her face as beautiful as he remembered her as a child. Telling her that he loved her so very much and that he was sorry, he let the drugs to what he needed them to do—close out the hurt that he felt right now. ~*~ Wyatt examined Les. He was in good shape considering what he’d been through in the last few days. Sending off the bloodwork by courier, he sat down at the computer to contemplate his own life right now. Wyatt wasn’t thrilled with anything going on at the moment. He loved being a doctor, just not all the things that went with it. Wyatt had wanted to be a doctor all his life, ever since he saw his father save a child’s life by simply knowing what to do when it was time. Wyatt thought his dad had been god-like to him since then, and now too. He supposed now he should just go ahead and get out of the practice he was in. It would cost him, Wyatt knew that, but right now, he thought that paying a large fee would be so much better than him hating to go to work so much that he made life-threatening mistakes. Wyatt wouldn’t give up his privileges at the hospitals across the state, and since he helped out with the police department on occasion, he was able to help out the Feds too when they needed it. Not sure what he wanted to do from now on, he figured that for the time being, he could simply be called in as a forensic doctor, what he’d mostly been doing for the last few months. His phone dinged that he had a message. It took him a few moments to realize that it wasn’t his phone, but Les’s.

Picking it up, he looked at the message and decided that he’d help the other man out. Sidney Daniels said that she was at the airport now. Telling his parents where he was going, Dad asked if he could go with him. Not having any reason to tell him no, he told him they’d get lunch with her too if she was ready to eat. He and Dad were just pulling into the parking lot at the airport when he got a second call from the young woman. I’m in deep shit here. Not really, but I don’t want to have to go to jail the first time I’m in Ohio. There is this pervert that won’t leave me alone. Can I use you for a minute? Sort of as my sugar daddy so he’ll back the fuck off before I have to kill him. Dad laughed as he read him what the message said. “I’m guessing we should tell her who is coming to get her. That way, she can let us be the knights in shining armor for her.” “You could be her sugar daddy if you want,” Dad growled, and Wyatt laughed. “I’m sure for a damsel in distress, Mom wouldn’t mind.” The camera went off, and he asked Dad what he was doing. “I’m sending her a picture of us both, and telling her that you’d be more than happy to be whatever she needs. Also, I’m telling her that we’ll meet her in the terminal. That way, if this pervert tries anything while we’re around, we can just take care of him.”

“Take care of him, how, Dad?” He just glared at him. “I don’t know what you want me to think. Here lately, you and Mom have been a little out there. Just yesterday, Mom told me that she’d thought about going to a salon and getting a wax job. That is not a conversation I ever want to have with either of you again.” “She told me that she’s not going to be holding back anymore. I blame the other girls. Not that I don’t enjoy this new her, but she does scare me a bit now and again. What did you tell her about the wax job?” Wyatt just got out of the car. He could hear his dad’s laughter all the way inside the building. As he had no idea what the woman looked like, he just sat down on one of the many chairs in the terminal. There were all kinds of people coming in and out of the place. He’d never seen the place this busy before—not on a Thursday, anyway. Dad came and sat beside him, and they both stood up when a younger woman came toward them. Christ, he thought, she was going to break the floor the way she was stomping down the hallway toward them. Before he could put out his hand to tell her who they were, the woman leaped up into his arms and wrapped her legs around his body. “I’m so sorry.” Then she kissed him. Wyatt didn’t have time to think about what she was doing, her body wrapped around his, her mouth doing incredible things to his. Putting his arms around her, bringing her tighter to him, Wyatt gave as good as he got from her.

Christ, he thought, this was more than he could have hoped for in picking someone up from the airport. It wasn’t until someone jerked his arms from around her that he remembered where they were. “Who the fuck are you?” Wyatt couldn’t think beyond the woman in his arms and how much he wanted to find them a dark place and finish what they’d started. The man, he supposed he was the pervert, asked him again who he was. “That there is my son, Wyatt, and his fiancée.” The man said that wasn’t right. When Sidney slid down his body, Wyatt couldn’t have held back the moan for all the money in the world. “Son? You want to deal with this man, or do you want me to?” Wyatt looked at Sidney. She was more than beautiful; she was adorable as well. Her hair was done up in braids on either side of her head. Freckles danced over her nose and cheeks like someone had painted them there. And she had the reddest hair he’d ever seen on anyone. Dad said his name a second time, and he had to drag his eyes away from Sidney. It hit him then that she was his mate. Tongue-tied and out of sorts, he looked at his dad. “She’s her. I mean, it’s her, Dad. My mate.” Sidney pulled away from him. When he saw that the man was actually pulling her from him, Wyatt grabbed the man’s hand just above his wrist and squeezed as hard as he could without breaking anything. “You would live a good deal longer if you release her on your own. Otherwise, I will kill you right here where you stand. Unhand her. Now.”

The man hesitated, just enough that Wyatt felt his bones snap under his pressure. When he jerked back, Wyatt started to pull Sidney behind him but figured he’d live a good deal longer if he let her handle this if she wanted to. It was then that Dane contacted him. The man isn’t just a pervert, but he’s after Sidney. Get away from there before his backups show up. I’ll explain when you get here. He asked her if they’d be safe going to their house. As safe as a brand-new box of condoms. By the way, congratulations on finding your mate. You’re going to have your hands full with this one. “Dad, we should be going.” Dad nodded but stared at the man. “Dad? We have to go now. This is not going to be settled here.” As they were walking to the front doors, he stopped when he realized that Sidney needed her bags. Telling her to go with his dad, Wyatt told her where he was going. She grabbed his arm and dragged him along with her.

“I don’t have anything but this carry-on.” She looked at him, then at the front door. “I haven’t any idea what is going on right now, but a woman by the name of Dane just told me to get you out of this place before you kill someone. Is that going to be an option with you all the time? Because if it is, then you’re going to piss me off.” “You’re my mate, and that jackass hurt you.” Sidney told him she was a big girl and could take care of herself. “I know that—I guess you can. But when he touched you, all I could think about was that he was going to hurt you.” It occurred to him when they got into the car that he wasn’t in any shape to drive. Dad took the driver’s seat when he asked him to, and they were headed home. Which home, he had no idea. But it did give him a chance to think about Sidney and her being his mate. Since he was in the back seat, she turned to glare at him. Wyatt had no idea why, but he thought that she was cuter more than she was mean looking. When he smiled at her, she doubled up her fist and told him to behave. “Look here, buster. I don’t have time for you to be going all apeshit with me or people around me. You tell me what she meant when Dane said that you might kill that man.” He told her what Dane had told him.

“And this Dane person—who is she, and how the fuck was she able to talk to me without touching me? I’m not stupid either. And you’d better never treat me that way.” “I don’t doubt that you’re very intelligent. You got yourself out of a situation, or you tried to do so by jumping into my arms. However, Dane told me that this man, whoever he is, was after you. I’m assuming to get you alone.” Sidney nodded. “He won’t. Just so you know. Dane also said that we needed to leave the airport before he brought in reinforcements. I’m assuming that you’re someone that he knows about to know to bring in reinforcements. Correct?” “Not usually. But after Bryn was murdered, I did some more digging into some of the things that she and I would talk about. Mostly it was her job and how much she hated it. We talked about the people that she worked for as well. Not the company that she drove for, but the parents of the kids on the bus. I also found out that the butler, Abram Maiden, who brought his charge Porsche Humphrey out the envelope, is dead as well.

His body was found a few hours after the explosion.” “They’re connected.” She looked at him with the oddest look on her face. “What did I do now? Not that I don’t think you’re absolutely the cutest thing I’ve ever seen when you’re all befuddled, but I would like to get to know your looks a little better before you hurt me.” “You believed me.” Wyatt asked her why she’d think that he wouldn’t. “I don’t know. I guess I just assumed because you’re some sort of shifter that you’d be all pissed off because I knew more than you do.” “I’m a cougar. All my family is. And I’m sure there are a great many things that you know more about than I do. Same as me knowing a bit more than you when it comes to healing people. We’re a team, not a competition.” She didn’t look convinced. “Sidney, you seemed to be okay with the fact that I’m your mate. Why is that?” “I felt something too. I’m not human, not wholly anyway. My grandda is a tiger. My grandma was a bear. Don’t ask me how that worked for them, but it did. My parents were both humans as far as anyone knew. I didn’t know them at all. I lived with my grandparents when they were killed. I was four.” Wyatt told her he was sorry. “Thanks. But anyway, I can shift, but I rarely do. It’s difficult for me to hold onto a shape. I can be a bear or tiger when I do it, but not for very long. Also, I have a freaky ability to be able to sort of blend into things around me.” When she disappeared, Dad nearly put them in a ditch. When Sidney came back to them, laughing and telling Dad she was sorry, Wyatt had a sudden thought. He wondered if she was being hunted for that ability alone, or did it really have to do with Bryn? “Wyatt, I just spoke with your mom. She said for us to come there, that the rest of the family is waiting to meet Sidney.”

Wyatt asked Sidney if she was all right with that. When she said yes, Dad nodded at her. “We’re having a light lunch, then we’re going to have a big dinner. I’m supposed to ask you what, if anything, you’d like to have for dinner.” “I’m starved. So long as there is meat in the meal, I’m all for it. Does this mean that Bryn’s family is going to be there as well?” Dad said that they were. Would that be all right? “Yes, of course. I have a few things for her father. Information that he might find helpful in dealing with Meadow. By the way, no one should trust her, not even if she hands you a bottle of supposedly unopened water. She’s figured out a way to taint it somehow. Meadow is a person that should have been put to death a very long time ago.” Wyatt didn’t even question her about that information. He knew, deep in his heart, that this woman would never say anything that she’d not checked out several times. Wondering how she and the rest of the women in the family would get along, he had a thought that it wouldn’t matter at all to Sidney if they liked her or not. She wasn’t going to change a bit to suit anyone but herself. Wyatt loved her for that. He also knew that he loved her more than he could have ever imagined loving anyone.