Remington Release Blitz&Giveaway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mercy  https://amzn.to/2snmIHb

BLAZE  https://amzn.to/33Vued

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

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Prologue


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Delmar Archer’s Dynasty Release Blitz and Giveaway

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quinlan Release Blitz & Giveaway

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

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




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Prologue


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Donald Dalton Kiss Release Blitz&Giveaway

Donald had been in the room with the women for a while. He knew one of them was his mate, but their scents were so similar he couldn’t tell which one it was. He took the women home one at a time. CJ and Rachel were the last to leave. It was then that Donald knew which one was his mate. He didn’t know which one of them was taking it harder, either.
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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….

Elizabeth Strickland, Lizzy, to her friends, found herself in a predicament. The last thing she remembered was attending her own bachelorette party, then waking up in a cave with six other women. They all had wounds, just like hers, only they were dead. Lizzy had awakened as a newborn vampire. She had no idea why they died, and she had lived, but she had wished every day that she had died with them.

Stanley Remy, better known as just Remy, was an old vampire and close friends with Bancroft, their leader. He had his own issues. He was being falsely charged with making baby vamps and leaving them to fend for themselves.

Lizzy just wanted the bodies of the other women found. Once they were, she had every intention of meeting the sun. What she didn’t need were two overbearing old vampires dictating to her what she could and couldn’t do. She had killed her maker, she wouldn’t hesitate to take them out if they didn’t let her be.

But then Remy gifted her with something she never thought she’d have again. To feel the sun without burning. She could have her life back. Maybe this mate thing wouldn’t be so bad after all.

If only it were that simple….

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Prologue


CJ stretched out on the lawn chair and looked up at the sky. It would be snowing before morning, and she, for one, was looking forward to the cold that would end things for a while—bugs and the like. Smiling, she stood up and felt the snap of the cold touch her skin. The way the breeze blew through her hair, making it feel colder when it touched her skin again. Once she made her way into the house, she gathered up the things to make some brewed tea. She’d not had any in so long her mouth was watering for a little sip. “I heard you come in. Have you had enough sunshine today?” Circe Jane Montgomery told her sister, Pfeiffer, that she’d never have enough sunshine. “The rest of us in the world are scrambling for something warmer, and you’re outside without a coat. Or shoes, for that matter.” “I love the cold.” That was an understatement. CJ couldn’t think of a word that would say how much she loved the cold. “I was thinking of having a nice cup of apple tea. Would you like a cup?”

“I would love one. Also, I baked apple scones yesterday.” She told her sister that was more than likely the reason she’d been craving it. “Could be. Before I forget to tell you yet again, there is a schedule opening at the store in the morning for you if you’d like to pick it up.” “I would love to pick it up.” She would love to go to work tomorrow. That would leave her the rest of the day to do her other job. The one that paid their bills and made sure they had money in the bank. Working was one of the many ways she helped her big sister. “Are you and the girls going to be working on cookies tomorrow? I know they are planning the entire day around being with you.” “They’ve told me. I don’t know how much energy I’ll have for it, but I’m going to spend the day with them.” Pfeiffer wasn’t just her big sister, but she was her much older one. There was almost twenty years difference in their ages.

Pfeiffer’s daughters, Sally and Rachel, were about the same age as CJ. “I saw that you picked up the ingredients for snickerdoodles. Don’t you like any other cookie than that?” “I can eat other cookies, but I don’t like them as much as I do those. Sally makes them just right, just enough cinnamon to sugar all over them.” Both her nieces could cook and bake like their mom. CJ was lucky if she could brew a pot of tea without forgetting about the water until it was all gone. Twice that had happened to her.

“When is Rachel coming home?” “Tonight sometime. She said she was going to drive straight through. I begged her not to, but she’s as stubborn as you are.” That, she was sure, her sister didn’t think of as a compliment. “Then we’re all going to get up early and go out for breakfast.” CJ would join them in their baking if she was off, but she didn’t enjoy herself. She did love them all, but they were mother and daughters, and having her there made them have to divide their time with her too. She wanted them to spend time with their mother. CJ would if she still had hers around.

Sipping her tea with her sister, they talked about the cookies they were going to bake. The three of them could have several hundred dozen cookies baked in two days and not eat a single one of them. CJ would be sick after eating a lot of cookie dough and then trying any cookie that came out of the oven. Her weakness was sweets. But her biggest was snickerdoodles. At six, they both sat in the living room to watch the news. Dinner was over, they’d cleaned up the kitchen, and now this was the time they settled into the couch. CJ didn’t much care for sitting idle, so she would work on her laptop to get a fresh start for the morning. The house belonged to her sister now, so she set the rules for the television. Before that, their mother had owned it. Mom had left the house to the two of them. When things got to the point where Pfeiffer needed to take a loan out for college for Sally, Pfeiffer bought her out so she could use the house as collateral. CJ never bothered having it transferred back into her name. It wasn’t something she was worried about. When the news was over, they watched a couple of game shows.

It was a nightly thing they both had been doing before their mom passed away. It was also their time to talk about what was going on around town, which Pfeiffer knew the most about. “Did I tell you that Mr. Rogers got off with no fine and no jail time?” CJ loved that old man and would have taken him to see his wife had she known. “There is a new program getting started to help people out that don’t have much in the way of food or transportation. I hope it works out. There are a lot of people out there that need help most of the time.” They had too before she got a good job. Like when a big bill came due at the same time as the taxes. It didn’t happen as much as it used to, not with them simply not using the credit cards to pay for things. Borrowing from a credit card company to pay the electric bill or whatever was coming due had nearly made them lose their home. They were doing all right now.

Sally had graduated from college to be a teacher at the same time CJ had. Rachel was in her last year. As soon as Rachel graduated, she’d get a good job as a nurse and be able to pave her own life. “I heard from the bank again today.” CJ asked her what he had wanted. “Other than for me to go out with him, he wanted to know if we wanted to refinance this house. I have no idea why we’d want to refinance a house that we own. I told him no again and no to the dating thing too. I’m not ready for that.” “Not that I think you should date Daniel Benson, but you really should be dating again.” Pfeiffer just looked at her. “Okay, we both should be dating, but it’s been almost ten years. Aren’t you ready to get your body waxed up for some sex-starved man?” “He would have to be sex-starved to want to sleep with me.”

CJ told her sister they didn’t usually do much sleeping when they were sex-starved. “Very funny. When are you going to date again? I think it’s been longer than I have since you went out on a— Oh, CJ, I’m so sorry.” “It’s all right.” She looked away so her sister wouldn’t see the hurt. “It’s been a while, I know that. But he hurt me, and I’m afraid. It took me four years to learn it wasn’t my fault, even though he blamed me and to say that he hurt me.

I think it was money well spent.” They didn’t speak for a few minutes, and she was all right with that. She and her sister could go days without really talking about anything serious, and it never really bothered either of them. Sometimes the quiet was better than emptying out one’s brains, as her grannie said. “I was just thinking of Grannie myself.” Pfeiffer was like that. She could latch onto whatever a person was thinking without a second thought. “When was the last time you saw her? I’ve not been in about a week. She doesn’t like me as much as she does you anyway.” “She loves you. And the girls. I went to see her just this morning on my way back from my run. Grannie still asks me why I run if there isn’t anyone chasing me. But we had a nice talk. And she and I had breakfast together.”

Pfeiffer asked her if that was her second or third breakfast this morning. “I do believe it was only my second this time. Anyway, she was telling me about this blanket I should make. I don’t know where she comes up with this idea that I can quilt, but she always has a rough draft of a pattern when she thinks of one.” “You look so much like Mom. Maybe that’s it. Mom loved to quilt. She wasn’t as good as Grannie, but we stay warm all winter with her quilting. Well, most of us do. Do you have any more than a sheet on your bed in the winter months?” CJ told her she had one quilt on her bed. “Small wonder. I remember Dad being like you are, overheated all the time. However, I don’t think I ever saw him walking around in the snow without shoes on. It’s a miracle you have any feeling in your feet at all.” “I have lots of feelings in my feet, thank you very much.” They both laughed, and CJ asked her why she’d brought up Grannie. “I was just thinking about how she would always have some saying about something you were doing. Like emptying your brains out.”

“Yes, she did at that. I remember thinking she was nuts when I was a kid. She’d say something like that and then just walk away like I was supposed to be able to decipher whatever the heck she was talking about. My least favorite one was, ‘Bachelor’s wives and maid’s children are well taught.’ That is a contradiction all the way around.” “Of course it is. I know the meaning. Do you want me to explain it to you?” Pfeiffer looked at her oddly, and CJ smiled. “I promise you I know what it means. It means that a childless man and a childless woman have no knowledge about maintaining a good idea about things they don’t have. You see? They have these opinions about child-rearing that are wrong because they have nothing to base it on.” “Okay, that does make it sound right. What other tidbits of information do you have about her sayings? Let me think of one.” While her sister thought about what Grannie used to say, CJ read over the email that had just entered her box. It was from her boss. As her emails were coded, she put in the password to open it up. “Something wrong?”

“I’m not sure. I have this email about the last job I did. He’s saying he didn’t get it. However, not only does it have the work order number on it that I assigned, but the attachment is attached to the reply he sent.” Pfeiffer asked her if that made better sense in her head. “Yes. What I mean is, I attached the job to an email that he just replied to me on. On it is the attached job. It’s been opened too. The email and the attachment.” “How do you know he opened them?” She said her email told her that. “You can fix it, so you know if someone opens your email? I’d like to have that on mine. I have people telling me all the time they didn’t get their bill.” “I’ll fix it for you in the morning. Not only will it tell you if someone opened it, but also which computer it was opened on. Like you’d know it was me that opened it because of the IP address that’s there.” She looked at her sister’s expression. “You have no idea what I’m talking about, do you? How can you live here with me and not have a clue what I’m going on about most of the time?” “Because you’re brilliant, and I’m just a homebody that loves you to pieces?” CJ hugged her as she dug into the popcorn bowl. “As for Grannie, I’m not sure I will ever figure her out.

She’s a great deal like you in all ways. I think I remember her being warm all the time too. Must have skipped me. Thankfully.” CJ laughed. They watched television until ten, then CJ went up to her room. She didn’t go to bed but worked from her computer for a while before she’d lay down. Never being one that needed a full eight hours of sleep, CJ could sleep for an hour or two before getting up fresh as a daisy. Not her sister or nieces. If they didn’t get at least eight or nine hours, they were crabby all day. And she’d never get in the way of their first cup of coffee. CJ didn’t have vices like that to get her going. She could even skip eating a meal sometimes. Her phone ringing woke her from a dead sleep. It took her only seconds to realize the person on the other end of the phone had the wrong number. She asked him to slow down and say what he needed once more. “I’ve found a woman on the side of the road.”

Okay, CJ sat up in her bed, pulling on clothing as he continued. “She’s been hurt badly, and I’m helping her along. The last number she called was this one. I don’t know her name, but I was wondering if you could meet me at the hospital.” “Where are you?” He told her which road he was on and the mile marker. “Okay. You said the woman had been beaten up. Can you tell me what she looks like?” Instead of answering her, she got a picture of the woman. It was her niece Rachel, and she did look really bad. Her mind skittered over his comment that he was helping her along, and she refused to think he was helping her along by hurting her more. CJ grabbed her keys and was out the door before she spoke again. “I’m on my way. The hospital closest to you is Mercy. Can you get her there?” He said he was standing outside their emergency room doors now. “What are you? Who are you?” “My name is Brian. Vampire. Are you going to have a hissy fit now about this?” She asked him if that was the usual reaction he got when he saved someone’s life. “Yes. Vampires have a bad rep.”

“So long as you’re helping my niece, I’m all right with you being whatever you need to be. I’m leaving my house now. I’m not telling her mom until I’m positive it’s her.” Brian asked her if she was usually so cautious. “You have no idea.” It was the longest drive of her life. Twenty minutes cut down to fifteen wasn’t bad, but she wanted to get there in one piece. As soon as she walked into the ER, she stopped at the desk. Whatever was going on, CJ had a feeling that somehow it was her fault. ~*~ Brian watched the two women. CJ had called her sister when Rachel was taken to surgery. Her voice was calm, and even though she’d not shared the information with him, he knew that CJ was blaming herself for her niece being hurt. Pfeiffer, he assumed when they hugged, came in just as he was going to try and leave them to their family.

The much younger woman hugged her as well. He knew they were all related by the way they looked like clones of one another. “Don’t leave.” He shook his head at CJ and said he couldn’t add anymore than he already had to the police. “I understand. You did save her life. You have no idea how much that means to all of us.” He could have told her more than he had the police. Brian could have told her that he had the scent of the two men that had beaten the young lady. The place where her car had been run off the road, and the woman trying to get away from them. However, he didn’t. Being involved at all was something he didn’t feel comfortable about. But when he got to Bancroft’s, he was going to tell him everything, including who the men were and how he’d killed them both. There was evidence, too, that they had thought they had the woman in front of him. CJ was wanted by a lot of unsavory people.

“I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.” She pointed to her lip and said he had a little spot on him. Licking away the drop of blood, he smiled at her. “You’re taking this very well for not knowing about my kind.” “I know a great deal about your kind. I don’t believe I’ve ever met a vampire before, but….” When she looked around, he did as well. But instead of talking to him about it, she pulled him into the ladies’ room. After checking each stall, she locked the door. “Do you happen to know a person by the name of Bancroft? I’m not sure if that’s his last or first name. Wait, don’t answer that. I doubt you were going to anyway, but don’t answer.

If you happen to come across him at any point soon, you should tell him a task force is being put together that is hoping to kill him off.” “Do you happen to know why? I mean, if I ever run across him in my lifetime, he might well ask me the same question.” She nodded. This time she put out her hand and put a thumb drive into his palm as they shook hands. He nodded. “You just happened to have this on you in the event you found a vampire?” “No. I have that on me all the time. If it were to fall into the wrong hands, I wouldn’t be found.” Brian wondered what was on the drive and why she trusted him with it. “I can see you have thousands of questions. I do, as well. However, I can tell you this much here. I work for different companies by putting security systems in place.

Firewalls if they want them. Sometimes it’s only putting in a program that gets employees to clock in and out. With that, I can walk around in their brains, the ones on their computer. I came across that three days ago when I was working for an office.” “And you trust me with this. Why?” She told him she had no idea why, but she did trust him. “I have your scent now, CJ. If you’re trying to fuck me over, I’ll hunt you down and kill you.” “All right.” She put out her hand again. “Would you please have a connection to me? I know how that works. You’ll be in my head all the time. I would like that, so if I am in trouble or I find out something more, I can give you fair warning. Also, if I’m taken, which I think will happen daily, then perhaps you can save me as well.” “Again, I don’t understand this. For whatever reason, I have the same sort of trust with you.”

She nodded and stood there. “All right, CJ, I’ll take your blood, but you must take mine as well. That will give us a tighter connection so that I will also know where you are if you’re taken.” “I’m all right with that. However, if it comes to a choice for you to save me or my family, they’re to be at the top of your list. I won’t have anything happen to them because I’m good with computers.” He said he would do that for her. “Promise me, Brian. I can’t stand the thought of someone harming them. But they will to get to me. Promise me.” “I promise that if there is a time I can either save you or your family, I will save them.” He grinned, not even bothering to hide his fangs. “However, I will do my damndest to make sure you’re safe as well.” She left the bathroom before he did after they exchanged blood drops. Pulling shadows around him, he waited until someone came in and left when the door was still open.

Brian didn’t know what to do now. If he stayed here, CJ and her family would be safe. If he went to talk to Bancroft, he’d be able to figure out what was going on with the drive. Smiling to himself, he thought of the perfect plan. Hello, Bancroft. I’m in serious need of you to send someone here to Mercy Hospital. I have something for you. He asked him why he couldn’t come. I don’t know precisely, but your name has come up attached to someone wanting to kill you. I see. Do you happen to know who this person is? He explained to his oldest and dearest friend what had happened in the last few hours. Okay. This woman, do you know her name? Anything about her?

Her name is Circe Jane Montgomery. She goes by CJ. I do know that she works on computers. However, we have exchanged blood, and she is someone that I instinctively trust. I have no idea why, but I know she’s not lying to me and that she’s scared of being killed. Bancroft told him that Kelly wanted to go get whatever it was he had. Thumb drive. And make sure Kelly isn’t alone. I don’t know what’s on this drive, but they might have some knowledge of her as well. Brian, you’re scaring me a little. He told him he was sorry, but he thought this was important. I agree with you, but it doesn’t make me any less afraid. I’m an old vampire, and to think that someone out there thinks they can kill me makes me wonder what sort of lengths they’re willing to go to.

By the time Kelly and Donald showed up, Rachel was out of surgery and in recovery. The other women were with her. CJ told him she was going to make a full recovery, but it was going to be a long road. “I have someone that is going to take the drive with them. I’m going to stay here to make sure the four of you are safe. I don’t know who might be coming to get you, but you’re vulnerable here. Too many people coming and going all the time.” “Thank you.” She didn’t say anything for a few seconds, and he decided this woman knew a great deal more than she was letting on. I was just thinking about something. Something that I got back from one of my clients last night. He said he didn’t get the program I sent him. However, it was opened, as was the email. I wonder if his computer has been compromised.

It can’t be mine. I’m too good to let that happen. But what if someone is trying to get to me through some of the people I work for? Then, in turn to Bancroft? I know squat about computers at the level you seem to have. But I’d say if they were trying to get to Bancroft—who I do know, by the way—then they’d do whatever they can to make you a target. She told him that was what she was just thinking. I know you love your family, CJ, but you shouldn’t stay around them. The farther you are away from them, the safer they can be. Also, I’m going to send someone to your home when your family leaves. My Grannie. I forgot about her. Can you make sure she’s safe as well? He said he would. CJ told him where she was and the code word to give to her if she had to leave with someone other than her. I’ve left nothing to chance, I thought, but right now, I feel my life unraveling at a high rate of speed. I’m going to do my best at keeping you all safe. Even Bancroft will if it comes to that.

Can you tell me, through our link, what is the reason they want to kill my friend? She was thinking. It was tempting to look into her mind to see what all she knew, but he also knew to do that would put a wedge between them and their trust for each other. You don’t have to if you don’t think— Bancroft is a lord of a kiss. I’m not sure what that is. A kiss, I understand, but not what him being a lord is. Several hundred years ago, Bancroft purchased a large chunk of land that is now worth billions. His wife is human and corrupted. Their words, not mine. Their plan is to kill him and take his wife. I know that doesn’t sound like much of a reason to kill him, but that’s only one part of the information on the drive. That drive holds information about six different companies and their mentioning of Bancroft.

He asked if that was the worst. Not even close. They want to take him to a lab and drain his blood to give to the highest bidder. They believe by draining him and selling his blood, they’ll have humans all over the world wanting some of it to live forever. I’m not sure, but I don’t think that’ll work. But then, that’s one of the other plots. The worst one I came across was a satanic group that wishes to use him to call forth the devil, so they can be one with their god. Christ. CJ told him that she thought so as well. All right. I’ve given the drive to Kelly, and Donald, the man that came with her, is going to pop her home. I’m not leaving here until you decide what you wish to do. I guess you’re right. I have to leave. He said he was sorry. As am I. They’re all I have, and I don’t want to leave them. He didn’t tell her it might not do any good to leave them. If they knew about her family, they’d used them no matter where she was. Thinking along those lines, he thought he was going to need more help than he’d first thought.

They needed to just disappear, the entire family. He looked at Kelly when she sat down next to him. Telling her everything through the link they had because of her being mated to Bancroft, he also told her what he wanted to do. Hide them. All of them. All right. Let me make a couple of calls, not to my work. As yet, we don’t know how these people are affiliated with other people. We can put them in our home, and they’d be safe for a while, but I think they need to be hidden deeper than that. Brian thanked her for going to so much trouble for him. You would have done the same for us. Yes. Without a second thought. She smiled at him, and he felt his face heat with embarrassment. I walked right into that one, didn’t I? I won’t hold it against you.

But I’m glad to know that, even though we’ve only just met, you’d take care of me. Okay. You and Donald stay here, and I’ll see what I can do from home. For now, we’ll just have them as guests at our home. I think that it will be safer than at their home. By the way, did you kill the men that beat up her sister? Yes. She said she thought so. They’d found their bodies an hour ago. I was pissed off that they’d hurt someone. They really did a number on her too. Without my blood, she would have surely died before I could get her to the hospital. I’m assuming neither of them are your mate. He explained to her the feelings he had concerning CJ. Is that something important? What I mean is, is she one of the others’ mates? I’m still learning things here. I never thought of that, but she could very well be. He thought of how the other vampires he knew were protective of women. It could also be that we’ve been ingrained with the need to protect all females.

I know I was sort of beaten over the head with how to protect the women of any species. We can test that theory when Donald gets back. It certainly would make her safer if she was one of their mates. She stood up and hugged him. Donald is going to pop me home, then come back. I’ll let you know what we find on the drive. We’re going to only open it with a laptop without any access to other computers. Perhaps we should send someone to their home to clean it out. Good idea. She hugged him again, and Donald appeared behind her. Don’t forget to let me know. I like this woman, and I don’t want anything to happen to her family. I’ve sent someone after Grannie too. After Kelly left and Donald returned, the two of them sat in the lobby of the ER and watched people. It was somewhat fun. They made up a game together where they would guess why they were there before looking.

CJ reached out to him to let him know that her niece was in her room now. After getting that from her, Donald and he walked up the stairs to the second floor and waited for them there. In less time than he thought it should have taken them, the Montgomery family was sitting with them. Looking over at Donald, he asked him what was wrong. Nothing. He asked him a second time but asked if one of the women was his mate. Yes. I’m thinking it’s the one walking around. But they’re all so close together I’m having a hard time figuring it out. They smell the same.

I’d not mention that if I were you. I don’t know how a woman’s mind works, but if you tell her she smells like other women, I’m sure you might lose your head. He nodded but kept watching the four of them. This is good, right? I mean, whatever one you are mated to, you can be happy in knowing that they’re all right as humans. Laugh it up, Brian. This only means you might be next. Teasing his friend was fun. Brian thought he might be the only one to welcome a mate into his heart. He was looking forward to it more than he had anything for a long time. Convincing the women wasn’t nearly as difficult as they thought it would be. They knew that CJ wouldn’t have told them it was dangerous if it wasn’t. The fact that one of them had been hurt badly helped to persuade them as well. Taking them home one at a time. CJ and Rachel were the last to leave. It was then that Donald knew which one was his mate. He didn’t know which one of them was taking it harder, either.

Watson Wilkerson Dynasty Release Blitz&Giveaway

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Rayne just wanted to finish nursing school and take care of her grandda. He was all she had left. She had only left the house for a short time, and when she returned, he was gone, and there was blood everywhere. She panicked. She called the number her grandda had written down for emergencies.
When Watson answered his phone, he had trouble understanding the hysterical young woman on the other end. And when he got her to calm down enough to find out what was going on, being a doctor, he was ready to help where needed. When he arrived at Mr. Oliver’s house, he was met with the most captivating woman he’d ever seen. She was perfect. Wats was so smitten, he was afraid he’d screw up before he even had a chance to ask her out.
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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?

Amy Hamilton never had much of a home life growing up. Her sister Phoenix and her mother demanded all the attention, so much so that she and her father didn’t have a relationship at all. Now that her father was filing for a divorce, he felt guilty for not being a part of her life and wanted to make up for it, but Amy wasn’t sure she was ready for that.

North Wilkerson had a similar upbringing. Although his mother was dead now, before her death, she was an awful person and an even worse mother. After having sworn off family ties to his parents, he was just now allowing his father back into his life.

Amy and Booker Wilkerson were close friends in college. Amy was only supposed to be in town for a few days, and when Booker called inviting her to dinner, she couldn’t pass up the opportunity to catch up on old times. When Booker’s cousin North and his uncle joined them for dinner, they all had a blast.

But when North just showed up at her father’s house and took over, Amy wasn’t sure what to think of him. What did he think he was doing? She barely knew him. Amy needed to nip this in the bud before it went much further. She was perfectly capable of taking care of herself. She didn’t need a man now, or would she ever need a man, any man….

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Prologue


Wats leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes. He loved being able to work for himself, but he’d been working much too hard. The family alone was keeping him hopping. Thinking of the conversation he’d had with his cousin Shawn today, he wondered what was going to happen to him when he figured out that life could throw you a curveball without any notice. “I’m going to take some time off.” Wats asked him what he was going to do that for. “I’m thinking if I don’t get my home in order now, I’m going to be sitting here with an empty house when I’m sixty years old. Not that it’s old, but the house is so empty, it’s like living in a tomb.” “All right. Not that I think you’d need time off to buy some furniture, but I hope you get it done the way you want it.” Shawn told him he was going to fill it with things he loved that he picked up at estate auctions. “Why? I mean, great, but why?”

“When was the last time you were at my parents’ home?” Wats said he didn’t remember. “Yeah, well, it’s all steel and glass. I don’t know if Dad even likes it. Anyway, I’m going to get things that speak to me. Dad is going to go on this trip with me. He’s thinking he is going to love living in the condo. At least his brothers are close by, and he can walk to town if he wants. We’re going to have some fun getting to know each other.” “Now, that I can get behind. What is your dad doing with his home?” Uncle Hank hadn’t been in his house since Penny had been arrested. They all called her that now, and it was fun. “My dad is going to sell his as soon as he gets it emptied out. It seems none of them were very thrilled about returning to their homes.”

“Dad is donating the house to the city. I haven’t any idea what they’re going to do with it—it’s really run-down—but he gave them the property there too. That’s about fifty acres. I’m thinking they’re going to tear the house down then put in something equally ugly.” No doubt. Wats told him about North’s dad running for mayor. “He’d be really good at that. With as long as this family has lived here, he’d know just about anything and everything about the town.” Wats sat up when his phone rang. He thought he’d put it on the service, but he might not have gotten it right.

There was a learning curve on just about everything he did lately. Saying his name, Wats waited while the person at the other end calmed down enough to speak. “My grandfather is gone.” Wats didn’t know what she meant—gone as in missing or gone that he’d died. “He’s not here. I came in this morning to stay with him while I finished up my classes, and we had a nice breakfast. Then when I went to the university to see about the classes I would need, I came home, and someone had been in here. There is blood all over the place too.” “Did you call the police?” There was a long pause, and Wats asked her again. “I don’t even know who this is or what your grandfather’s name is.”

“My grandda is James Oliver. My name is Rayne Oliver. Why do you think he had your phone number in his phone marked as police?” Wats said that he didn’t have any idea. “I’m going to call the police now. I’m so sorry to have bothered you.” “It’s no trouble. I’m on my way there with my medical bag. When we find him, I’ll be able to see how he’s faring.” He didn’t want to say anything about him maybe being dead. Lots of blood could be scary enough. “I’m going to call my cousins in too. All of us can look for him.” Wats called the others and told them what was going on. He also mentioned how his number was listed as the emergency number. He called North last, as his number had been busy when he’d called him the first time.

“He’s with me at my house.” Wats turned his car around and headed toward North’s home. “As for the blood, I don’t know. There wasn’t any there when the two of us left there a few hours ago.” “She said there was a great deal of it.” Wats parked in the parking lot of the store he was nearby and tried to catch his breath. “What should I do? Go there and find out what is happening or just go back to my offices?” “Why don’t you go and see if you can talk to Rayne in person? Then perhaps bring her to my house. I don’t think she should be driving if she’s that upset.” Wats told him he’d go out there now. “Be careful, Wats. Since we have no idea what the blood is from, someone might still be in the house.” “Well, thank you very much for that thought.” He made his way to the house carefully. There didn’t seem to be any cars along the way that were parked without anyone in them.

Nor did he see any indication of trouble. By the time he was pulling up in front of the house, there were two cruisers there, and a young woman on the front porch rocking in the rocker set out there. “Your cousin called here. He told me that my grandda was with him.” Wats told her he’d take her there if she wanted to go. “I do. I hope you don’t mind, but I have to wait on the police. They’re doing their thing in there now. I was terrified.” Wats checked her over. He told her he didn’t want anything to be wrong with her and checked not just her blood pressure, which was just a little high, but her temperature too. When he was able to give her a clean bill of health, he sat down on the porch in front of her. “I’ve known your grandda for a while. When I was in med school, he was one of the free patients that, as students, we were to work with. He’s a very healthy man for his age.”

Rayne told him he didn’t sit around on his duff like a lot of people his age. “I think I remember him being about eighty? I could be wrong.” “He’ll be ninety-three on his next birthday. Which is coming up. He’s all I care about in the world now. My parents are both gone. I don’t have any sisters or brothers. No aunts that I want to be around either.” She laughed. “The last time I was here, he and his sister, my aunt Carol, had this big to do about him living alone. Christ, he’s a few years older than her and looks like he could be her kid. Not really, but Grandda is in really wonderful shape.”

Wats told her about the house that was going to be built for him and how his cousin, North, was going to make sure he was going to be all right living out here alone. Rayne told him she had planned on living with him until she graduated next year, then she was hoping she could get him to move in with her. “I’ve had a little house since my parents died. It’s not much, but it’s a damned sight better than this is. I guess North, as you called him, saw what he was living in here.” Wats told her how he’d only just bought the house a few weeks ago. “The banker that was holding the place didn’t want to do anything for him. Told my grandda he’d be better off in a nursing home if he didn’t like this place. Grandda lost Grannie here. He doesn’t want to leave without going to her, he told me.” By the time the police were finished up with the house, they’d discovered that a raccoon had made its way into the house when it had been attacked by something larger. The blood was all animal blood.

It was confirmed it was a raccoon when they found his body in the bedroom that Grandda used. “I think he’s been feeding the poor thing. Grandda is allergic to cats and doesn’t care for dogs. They’re too big for him to handle, he told me. But this little raccoon made his way into his heart, and he’s been taking care of him. I think it was making the loneliness more tolerable.” Wats thought that was the nicest thing he’d heard in a while. “I don’t know if we’ll be able to stay here now. At least not tonight.” “I have a condo you can stay in. I mean by yourself. With your grandda. I’ll be someplace else.” Wats let out a long breath. “I have a furnished condo the two of you can stay in. I’ll bunk with my dad. He’s close to where you two can stay.” “I don’t want to put you out.” Wats assured her she wouldn’t be. He was enjoying spending time with his dad.

“If you’re sure?” “I am sure. You gather up some things for him to wear, and tomorrow we’ll come back here to see what we can salvage out of the bedroom. After that, North is going to take care of getting something more livable in here for the two of you.” Wats hoped his dad didn’t mind him staying with him a few days. “You get some things, like I said, and I’ll make a couple of calls. That way, by the time you’re finished here, I can have my arrangements made as well.” As he figured, Dad was happy to have him. North said he was his hero for doing this. All Wats had wanted to do was go to bed and not wake up anytime soon. It was stressful being the worrier of the family. Taking Rayne to his brother’s house, then to the condo, was about all he could handle this evening. Going to his dad’s condo, Wats was thrilled that he didn’t seem to mind him rushing off to bed and let Wats go without bombarding him with questions. As soon as his head hit the pillow, Wats knew he wasn’t far from sleep. When a phone rang somewhere in the place, he had to catch himself from getting up and answering it. Being dead tired as he was, he didn’t think he could make a sound decision on whether or not he liked chocolate ice cream or vanilla. Or even both, for that matter.

Thinking briefly of the list he’d brought from his office, Wats wondered if any of the others would help him out with it. He needed someone to work for him to answer phones. To clean up after him and his patients. Also, Wats needed to get laid. Laughing a little, he rolled to his side and smiled. Tomorrow was going to be a brand new day, and he was going to try his best not to be running all over town again. Yes, he thought as slumber took him under, tomorrow was a brand new day.

Rodney Marshall’s Shadow Release Blitz &Giveaway

Rebel had been called to the US when she’d been informed that her brother was dying, but she arrived too late. He left behind a devastated wife, two small children, and a load of debt. Rebel stayed to help out as best she could, taking a job at the local hospital, but working conditions there were unbearable, and she had no choice but to quit or kill someone—namely the head nurse. And as a doctor, she had taken an oath to save lives, not take them.

Rodney ran a small practice. He handled the medical care for the local schools and worked at the hospital when needed for emergencies. And when a little boy came into his office to get stitched up from being ambushed by bullies, Rodney knew he had to get to the bottom of the problem. When the boy’s Aunt Rebel shows up and takes over, Rodney instantly knows who she is to him—his mate. Having to approach her with the subject had his cat curling up inside him. He had watched his brothers flounder around with their new mates, and he didn’t want to start off on the wrong foot.

It didn’t take but a minute for Rebel to assess the new situation, and she wasn’t sure how she felt about it. She also needed a job, not a handout. She was a doctor, damn it, and a good one. No man, especially one she didn’t know, was going to order her around. If he thought he could, she’d let him know fast that she was no pushover.

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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?

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….

Lachlan Russell had been rushed into emergency surgery. Her boss’s daughter took exception to Lach, telling her no, and went ballistic, throwing anything and everything she could at Lach until Lach finally collapsed from her injuries. Lach was also pregnant at the time, tricked into being a surrogate to carry her sister’s child.

Harris Marshall, Shep’s wife, was called in on the case. Lach’s boss and daughter were now both in jail, but Lach’s family was another matter—they were worse. Harris would make sure this woman pulled through if she had to kill Lach’s family to see to it. Calling in reinforcements, her brother-in-law, Oakley, was the first to arrive at the hospital.

Oakley was thrilled to have found his mate. As far as he was concerned, Lach was perfect. But her sister and brother-in-law were both insane. Would he and his family be enough to protect her from their madness?

Marshall’s Shadow
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Rodney was ready to close up the office for the day when a little boy came in with blood all over his face and hands. Calmly, so as not to freak him out any more than he seemed to be already, he asked him if it was his blood or someone else’s. “Mine. Most of it anyhow. I was wondering if you could maybe fix me up before my aunt wakes up. She’s going to have a cow when she figures this out. Man, is she going to brain me.” Rodney took him into the exam room and asked him if he could call his mom. “Yeah, call her. That’s a good idea. Mom won’t freak out until after I’m fixed up. I fell out of the tree and hit my head too.” After cleaning most of the blood off the kid, he could see that he was going to need some stitches. Also, his head was going to need to be X-rayed. Aaron, he told him his name was, said he’d been in the tree hiding from a bully at school. His sister Angie, he said, had run home when he distracted the bully. “All right. We’ll need someone here that can okay you getting sewn up. Tell me your mom’s name.” He did. Sheila Walsh was working, but she’d come home for him. “I would imagine she would. And this aunt of yours—I don’t suppose you can tell me why she’s sleeping when you’re out with bullies? You don’t have to, but you do seem to be afraid of her.”

“Nah, I’m not afraid of her. But she told me she’s so stressed out that if she was to fart, she’d have a heart attack. She quit her job. We really need the money, Mom said, but we need Rebel more. She’s my best friend. When she’s not freaking out.” He heard the door open and his nurse talking to someone. When she laughed, Rodney relaxed a little. “Oh no. That’s my aunt. Tell her I’m not going to die as soon as she comes in here, or she’ll have me naked in a minute and her poking and prodding at me.” “Aaron James Walsh, what the hell were you thinking sending your sister home all by herself? I canna believe you would have— What happened to you?” Aaron told his aunt what he’d told Rodney. “Let me have a look at you.” Aaron had been right. She had him stripped of everything but his underwear in seconds.

She looked him over, commenting in a language he didn’t know about something she’d find. Rodney stood back, waiting for her to notice that he was still in the room. He knew who she was. The other night he’d spoken to her at the meeting at the school. Rodney had a feeling then that she was his mate but hadn’t pursued getting close enough to her to find out because of the things he had going on here and at the school. But with her so near him today, he knew that not only was she his mate, but she was much prettier than he remembered. “Whatcha doing with that thing?” Rodney noticed that his nurse, Adaline, had brought in a kit to clean up the wounds and stitch them up. Rebel told him what she was going to do with the scissors. “No way are you going to cut my hair away from anything. I’ve seen you hack at your own hair. You leave my hair alone and let Doc Rodney do the cutting.

You’ll have me as bald as Grandpa Walsh was before he passed on.” “It’ll only be a wee bit.” Shaking his head, Aaron looked at him. So did Rebel. It seemed to occur to her that she was in his offices taking over. “I’m sorry. I kinda get myself in Dutch when I’m worried. He’s my nephew.” “I gathered that. I can cut away the hair. In fact, it would be my pleasure.” Rebel handed him the pair of shears. “We were about to call his mom. He was telling me that you freak out about blood.” “Nay, not blood on others, but on my family does bother me. Especially this one. He’s somewhat of a daredevil at times. You’d not be able to call his mom either. She’d lose her job if she had to leave work.” He asked her what she did. “I was an emergency room doctor until last night. I couldn’t take it anymore. They don’t seem to like foreigners for some reason.” “You’re Rebel Walsh.” She nodded.

“Yes, I’ve heard that the nurses are giving you grief. Harris, my sister-in-law, is looking into that. There have been complaints from the patients that they’re being pitted against you. For some reason, she thinks you’re a much better doctor than most of the staff that works there. Are you?” “I donna know about that. I work hard. It’s hard to do when the staff is forever making it difficult for me. They wouldn’t believe I was a physician. Or they did but kept telling the patients in my care that I was in over me head and only a nurse. Not that I have anything against being a nurse. But I worked very hard to be a doctor the same as anyone has.” He finished up with the hair trimming, then moved back. “I should have sent him someplace to get X-rays. I just wanted him to be better and not bleeding. I should have been careful about watching them.” “I was going to suggest an X-ray. I have the equipment here to do that.” Aaron didn’t say much, but he did tell them that not only did he have a headache, but his ribs hurt too. “We’ll get all that taken care of, young man.” A little girl joined them in the examining room and sat quietly on one of the chairs. When asked if she’d been hurt, she burst into tears. Adaline comforted her while he went down the hall with Aaron to get some pictures of not just his head but his chest and arm too. “This gonna cost very much, Doc Rodney?”

He said he had been on his way home when Aaron came in, so after hours was free. “Oh good. I’ll remember that from now on. We don’t have a lot of money. Mom doesn’t get insurance where she works yet, but Aunt Rebel had some that didn’t cover me and Angie. Life sucks, doesn’t it?” “Sometimes.” He reached out to Harris and told her what was going on. I don’t know the whole story about what’s going on, but if you could check into this little family, I’d appreciate it. They’re really down and out, it looks like. I have some information on Rebel. Hell of a doctor. She graduated at the top of her class, like number one. She took her exams here to be able to practice right after her brother died, leaving his wife and two children. Rebel came to the States to help her out. I don’t know what the issue is at the hospital yet, but I’m working on it. She quit, did you know that? He told her that she’d told him. Good. Perhaps you can work with her. I don’t know. There is some insurance that should have been paid by now, and I’m looking into that as well.

It would put them in the black for a long time. Aaron has been hurt. I’m still getting details on that. But apparently, they’re being bullied. He climbed a tree to give his sister time to get away. She’s here too, sobbing in one of my exam rooms. She said she’d heard about the kids being hurt as well. Why haven’t we done anything about it then? I mean, we need to stop this before I have to step in as my cat and take care of it the wrong way. Harris was quiet for several seconds before she spoke again. Rebel is your mate, isn’t she? He said even if she wasn’t, he’d want the kids safe. How about we do this, then? It’s a long shot because I don’t know everything yet, but we put them up in one of the houses we own. No rent for the time being, or ever, and hire the mom to work for us. She was a secretary before her husband passed away, and right now, she’s barely making enough money to afford food and rent at the same time. Also, it looks like at one time, she was an LPN. Licensed practical nurses are someone you can work with, correct? You take Rebel in as a partner, or whatever you call it, and I’ll see about the kids being able to go to the pack school.

That would keep them out of harm’s way with the bullies until I can figure out what the fuck is going on there. And just how do you propose I make that work? In the event that it might have slipped your mind, Rebel is my mate, and I don’t want to start this relationship with her being pissed off at me. Harris told him that all of them had pissed off their mates at one time or another. That doesn’t mean I want to go that way first off. Invite them over for dinner tonight. He asked her how that was going to work. Just charm the shit out of her or something. The mother will be home from her job at about six or so. Did I tell you that she’s working as a dishwasher at one of the restaurants we own? Anyway, you invite Rebel. I’ll take care of the mom. Tell her you were coming over anyway and would like to get to know her better. Yeah, that’ll work. He said he’d do it. If this bites me in the ass, I’m going to take it out on Shep. Why Shep? I’m the one making you do this? He told her.

Ah, you’re so sweet. I didn’t know you were that afraid of me. I love you too, Rodney. But get to work. Before I have to go there and do it for you. He had no doubt that she would, too. After looking at the X-rays, he took them to the exam room with Aaron. Angie was calmer now and coloring in one of the books he’d purchased for the kids that came in. Rebel wasn’t anywhere to be seen, but Angie said that she’d had a phone call and had gone outside. Nodding, he waited for her to return to tell her what he’d found on the X-rays. When Rebel came back inside, she spoke before he could. “I don’t suppose you need an assistant, do you?” He smiled at her. “I need a job. One that I can work in and not be told I’m overqualified or even underqualified for. This shite stinks.” “I was going to ask you if you’d like to work with me. I have the schools and this office. I’m also part of the hospital team when necessary. It would help me in keeping up with those different things.” She asked him in what capacity she’d be working. “Doctor. I don’t need an assistant, really. Adaline is working with me. If you know of a nurse or someone that will be helpful to you, then, by all means, hire them.”

“My sister-in-law is a licensed practical nurse, but there isn’t much in the way of jobs for her either.” This was working out much better than he thought it would. “I can have her come by, and you can meet her if you’d like.” “I tell you what. I’m having dinner at my brother and Harris’s house tonight. How about you join us there? It’s nothing fancy. I think we’re having grilled foods. I’m not sure what that means, but it’s always good.” She asked him what the catch was. “Catch? I’m not sure what you mean by that.” “I’m not stupid, you know. And I would appreciate it if you’re going to be treating me that way if you just keep your mouth shut. In fact, just shut up.” Rodney told her he’d never thought that. “We’ll see. You’re something to me. Mate, I’m thinking. I didn’t know what it was until I came here today. The other day, you didn’t say anything when we touched. You’ve known for a while.”

“I didn’t really. I thought as much, but your scent was covered by all the others in the room. And your touch, really, was very brief.” He looked at the X-rays, then back at her. “I don’t know what you have against being my mate, but you can already—at least I hope so—tell that I’m not going to pressure you into anything you don’t want. It looks like Aaron has two broken ribs, as well as a clean break in his arm. There is a little bruising on his head that is concerning, but nothing I don’t think a little rest will take care of. I’d like your permission to give him something for the pain now.” He didn’t wait for her to reply. Instead, he stepped out of the room, closed the door, and leaned against the wall for a minute. Rodney felt like he’d been running a marathon. It hadn’t been but a couple of minutes, but he was sure he wasn’t going to be able to be in the same room with her if she was forever going to be taking shots at him. Standing up, he went to ask Adaline to fix him up a shot for pain for Aaron. “You all right?” Rodney told her he was fine, just a little overwhelmed.

“I know she’s your mate. But I’m telling you right now, if she’s going to talk to me like she did you, I’m going to take her down a few notches. I’m just putting that out there.” “I’ll have a talk with her.” Adaline told him she’d do it if it came down to it. “Just, for me, go easy. I know you will, but I’m working through some shit here, and I don’t care for it.” When he had the syringe ready to give to Aaron, he went back into the room. Rebel was missing again, but he didn’t ask this time. After giving Aaron the shot, he watched him as he seemed to mellow out and close his eyes. Well, he thought, at least I’ve made one of the Walsh family happy. ~*~ Rebel hated herself. She wasn’t usually so snappish to people, especially people she didn’t know that well. But there was something about his calmness in the face of all this stuff that was going on that irritated her to no end. When she’d come out here for a few seconds of relief from her own mouth, she called and left a message on her sister’s phone. “We’ve been invited to have dinner with the Marshall family tonight. If we play our cards right, perhaps we can have leftovers.” She thought about that and told Sheila she was sorry.

“I’m going to go into practice with Rodney Marshall, and I’d like you to give your notice there and be my nurse. We’ll work out the rest of the details later.” The Marshalls were very wealthy. She didn’t know how much they were worth, but she was positive it was a great deal more than she and her sister had made in their entire lifetime—probably several hundred lifetimes. Sitting on the little bench right outside the offices, Rebel looked around the little town. She’d only been in this country for about two years total. Once when her brother had married, she’d stayed for about six months. Then when her brother had died, she’d packed up everything she owned and came here. He’d been living here with their father since the divorce from their mom, whom she’d been living with. It had been several years since she’d seen Thomas since his marriage, and she was heartbroken when she’d come home for his funeral.

“Doctor Walsh, there is a phone call for you.” She looked at Adaline and told her she was sorry. “I am too. I was ready to bite your head off for talking to Rodney that way, but he told me you were stressed out. It’s been hard on him, trying to make all this work on his own. He loves it, don’t get me wrong, but the schools are in worse shape than anyone wanted to believe.” “I’ve been volunteering there one day a week, and I canna believe no one has done anything before now.” She followed the older woman into the building and picked up the phone. It was her sister. She was crying and screaming at someone else, and Rebel waited on her. “Can you see what I need for Sheila Walsh to be able to come here as my nurse?” “Rebel? Where are the kids?” She told her what had happened and that she was at the doctor with them. “I came home to find someone here shutting off our power and no kids. I was worried more than I could—” She was cut off.

More than likely, the power had been cut. They’d been expecting it for several days now, and apparently, their time had been up. Putting the phone back in the cradle, Rebel wanted to find a nice dark room and sob. Things couldn’t get any worse, she told herself, then amended that to say it could and more than likely would. While she was standing there, Rodney came out of the exam room and asked her if she was all right. “Not particularly, no.” She told him, starting with the power being cut off, what she’d been dealing with in the last twenty-four hours. “The water is next. Though I have explained to the company that we haven’t gotten a bill so I donna know what to pay on it. Not that we have the cash for that either. Angie needs money for a class trip. Aaron is hurt. His mom is at her wit’s end, and I’m right there along with her. I haven’t any income, and the fucking insurance company won’t get off their collective arse and pay up on the insurance that Thomas had when he died suddenly at home. Not suddenly, but he did die, and they should have to help out his family when he made the payments every frigging month.” “Come with me.” She didn’t have much in the way of a choice when Rodney took her hand into his and dragged her down the hall to another exam room. There he pulled her into his arms and held her.

Nothing sexual about it, but it felt wonderful to have a pair of very strong arms holding her. Even if it was only for a little while. “Harris is looking into the insurance money for you. When she did a search on the two of you, she said it came up.” Rebel looked at him. “She did this before today, and if I know her, she’s going to have answers for you by the time we have dinner there tonight. Now. There is something you can do for me that will help you in ways you can’t imagine. As a family, we own several homes. One of them is being cleaned up and filled out for you right now. I’ve spoken to the others, and they’re going to move you and your little family into it today. In fact, Shep and two of my other brothers are at your home right now with your sister-in-law, Sheila. I have a home as well. If you’d like to move in there, for the time being, I’ll move in with one of my brothers so you can have the entire house to yourself.”

“The landlord is a creep.” Rodney asked her what he’d done. “Nothing much other than he just comes into the house when he wants, using his own key. If we were to change the locks, he said he’d sue us. That as our landlord, he has the right to come and go as he pleases. Twice now, he’s been in my room when I’ve been sleeping, Aaron told me. I’ve not an idea what else he’s been up to when we’re asleep or not around.” “I’ll take care of him.” She told him not to kill him. “I’m not making any promises on that score. However, if you’d like to go home and help out with the moving, that would be all right with me. The kids can stay here until I go to see my brother. Aaron is resting now, the best thing for him, and I’ve put a cast on his arm. Angie is taking a nap. She said she did it after school every day.” “You’re serious.” Rodney pointed out that he wasn’t very good at jokes, and he was rarely, if ever, not serious. “What am I going—?” “Don’t. Don’t ask me what the catch is. Or how much I’m going to take from you for this. There is no catch. I promise you that I have nothing untoward in my head about you having a place to stay that is safe, as well as something you can afford.” He grinned at her.

“Your family is now my family, and I need to do this for them. To make you happy. I swear to you on my mom’s heart that I’d never ask you or trick you into anything you don’t want to do.” “I was wrong to say that to you. I’m sorry.” He said he was all right with her being upset. Taking it out on him was better than her killing someone. “That was going to be the next thing on my list of things to do today. The landlord again. He’s been…. Perhaps I should tell Harris about it. She’d be less prone to kill him.” “Doubtful. She’d just find a way so it would look like an accident.” Rebel didn’t know if he was serious or not but let it go. “All right. You head back to the house. Shep said that Sheila is helping a great deal, but she’s upset. Something about a call from someone. I’m betting insurance company, but I don’t know yet.” After handing her his cell phone and telling her to call when they were about done, he said he’d take care of the kids and make sure they were both all right. For some reason, Rebel thought they’d be in better care with him than they would be with anyone else she knew. As she drove back to the home she was sharing with Sheila and the kids, she thought about what it would be like to have someone love her. It had been a while since she’d even dated anyone that she liked.

The last relationship she had recently had been with a control freak. Even after that, she scolded herself. Here she was planning a wedding with a man she barely knew. As soon as she pulled up in front of the house, she knew something had happened, and it wasn’t going to bode well for their ex-landlord. Getting out of her car, she made her way past the police cruiser and the large SUV that was parked in the driveway. Mr. Cort was sitting on the ground with his hands behind his back, with one of the police standing over him. The officer tipped his hat at her and said that Harris and the others were inside.

She nodded and went into the house, noticing that there was blood on the front stoop as well as the front door. Mr. Cort was screaming at someone, her she thought, about getting off his property and that he was suing her. Oh well, she was no longer worried about him. “You must be Rebel.” She said she was. “Rodney said you were on your way. That piece of shit out there is lucky that Sheila found him in the house before I did. I would have killed him where he stood.” “You must be Harris.” She grinned like it was wonderful that she’d made such an impression. “Rodney said you’d find a way to kill Cort without it looking like anything but an accident.” “I have before. Tell me what is yours in here, and we’ll get it on the truck. Wait, the truck isn’t back yet. I knew we should have rented a trailer. Oh well. Are we taking your things to the new home or to Rodney’s?” She stared at the other woman. “Okay, I’ll take that as a new home. Though I can tell you, we’ll just be moving you again soon. I’m pushy like that, just in the event you don’t know that yet.” “To Rodney’s home.” Harris stared at her for several minutes before nodding once and told her she was a smart girl.

“I don’t know about that, but he’s promised me I’m not going to be pushed into anything, and I believe him. You? Not so much. But I also know you’ll stay out of whatever is going on with us if asked. You will, won’t you?” “To a point, yes.” She turned away to go into the next room but stopped just short of being out of her sight. “I don’t have to tell you not to hurt him, do I?” “I have no intentions of hurting anyone. But, as I told him, I’m not going to be pushed into shit I don’t want either.” She nodded and left her there. Going into the kitchen where she could hear Sheila, she was nearly taken to the floor when she leapt at her, laughing. “They came through. Look at this. It’s the full amount. Harris said they’d had it ready to go for weeks but were lazy.” Sheila whispered in her ear, “I’m not sure, but I think she made them pay me. Oh, Rebel, I can afford to pay our bills now. And with giving my notice, I don’t have to fret as much about having to wait for my first check with you. I can still work for you, correct?” “Yes. I need you there.” The check was for ten grand. It wasn’t much of a policy, she supposed, but it was enough to get her some cushion in the bank. “What happened with Cort? Did he hurt you?”

“No, that’s his blood. He used his key to come into the house, and I’d just gotten this check. Instead of begging him, like I think he wanted me to do, I offered to pay him everything we owed him. He grabbed me and tried to shove me against the wall before I could get away. I hit him and then kicked him in the nuts while he was down. Harris is the one that made him bleed. She’s kinda scary, isn’t she? But I’m happy now. So we’ll have to forget the little shitter and move into a better home.” Harris was making notes when she caught up with her again. She asked her what she was doing, and when she told her, Rebel told her she could add to her list. The house was in poor repair, and the roof leaked like a sieve when it rained. “I don’t think the furnace works either. The air doesn’t work at all, even though he told us it did. Also, if you’ve not made it to the upstairs bathroom, let me warn you now, don’t go in. It won’t hold your weight. The kids’ either, for that matter. I’m terrified that one night the tub is going to come down onto us while the kids are bathing.”

Harris wrote it down. “Why are you doing this? I mean, we’re moving out— thank you for that, by the way—and he can’t bother us again.” “He needs to have his ass kicked, is what he needs. These are terrible conditions here, and no one should have to put up with this. Sheila told me he just barges in when he wants to. That’s not right either. The fucker is on my shit list, and I’m going to take care of him.” Rebel didn’t tell her about her waking up with him standing over her. She figured the man wouldn’t make it to the hospital if she did. Harris was one intense person. “I hope you don’t mind, but I’ve made sure that there is food and supplies at the new house for your family. I had no idea that things were that bad for you guys. The insurance company is going to have to pay for that. There isn’t any reason for them to have held up the check for that long.” “I was going to call them today, but then I had to go and see to my nephew.” She asked about the bully. “I don’t know a great deal about him as yet, but I will before too long. I think the kids have been keeping things from us because they know how bad things are here. Or how bad they were.

I was really worried about what we were going to do when I didn’t have any more time coming to me from work.” “I want to talk to you about that as well. Soon. There is no reason for that either. We’ve had some issues there for a little while, and I’ve had enough.” Rebel asked her if she took on problems like this often. “Yes. We work on things as a family usually, but I’ve decided I need to step up some work with the hospital. If I have to go there for anything, I want to know I don’t have to worry about petty shit going on that will upset me more.” “Good point. I didn’t think of it that way.” Harris and she went through each of the rooms that were nearly devoid of their things. They’d not just been loaded up, but it looked as if someone was going into the rooms after they left and cleaning up. “When I came here for my brother’s funeral, I thought for sure that Sheila was joking about paying nearly nine hundred a month for this place. It’s not worth nine hundred dollars to purchase if you ask me. But she was grieving, and I didn’t want to upset her any more than she already was. Now, with the things taken out, I can see that it was much worse than I thought. It’s small wonder the kids didn’t get sick more than they were.”

“He’ll have to either pay for this place to be brought up to standards or sell it off. I’m hoping he sells. The Marshalls own the houses on either side of this place, and I’d love to be able to tear the three of them down and put in a nice place for kids to go after school.” Rebel liked that idea and told Harris so. “Also, you might not realize this yet, but you have the same input that all of us do on things the family does. Any ideas you have or even suggestions will be welcome.” “I’m not ready for that just yet.” Harris said she understood, and they finished up the house inspection. “I’m wondering if I should have told Rodney I was having my things brought to his house. He must think I’m off my rocker a little. We had a little spat before I came here. I might have given him the impression I was a bitch.”

“I’m sure you are when you need to be. But I’ve told him already. You’ll have to share your blood with us so we can talk to you through a link. Also, in the event that something happens and we need to find you. But that’s not anything we have to be in a hurry for now.” Too much, Rebel thought. There was just too much right now. Harris seemed to understand and changed the subject to something less personal. She told her of the babies coming, as well as a vampire friend of hers that was coming to see Harris to tell her of the vampire line she was a part of. Jason, she told her, had been looking into it for her since he’d tasted her blood. It was going to be hard to keep up with this family without a notepad. Rebel decided she’d get one when she was out next. It might help her to keep all this stuff straight. Or not. She had no idea right now. But she was thinking it would be fun.

Carroll Morgan’s Leap Release Blitz & Giveaway

Carroll Golden and his five brothers were the first of their kind. Born leopards, they were blessed with the magic of being the first leopard shifters. Morgan, their mother by proxy, raised them to blend in with humans and to be good men. Blessed with immortality, they all lived together on Morgan’s Leap, a sanctuary for all nature.

Hanna March worked for the FDA. She had always wanted to visit Morgan’s Leap, but it was closed to the public, so when she was given the opportunity to inspect their orchard on some bogus complaint, she jumped at the chance. The place was beyond anything she ever expected, and Morgan was the perfect host. But when someone took a pot shot at Morgan from the field, a huge leopard came out of nowhere and took them both down. Hanna, hitting her head on the way to the ground, was down for the count.

Carroll shifted back to human as soon as the women were out of danger, but finding out the pretty FDA agent was his mate took Carroll by surprise, and boy was she going to be mad when she woke up.

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Prologue

Morgan made herself into a tight ball as she hid herself in the tall grasses in the field. She knew the men chasing her would find her soon enough, but for now, she was going to make them work for it. Closing her eyes, trying her best to calm her breathing, she did the only thing she could to not think about what was going on around her. Morgan counted to fifty in all the languages she knew. She had awakened out here. All she remembered was having dinner in the kitchen with the staff and then waking out in the middle of the moonless night. She did not remember going to bed or putting on the nightgown she had on now. Nor did she remember waking when brought out here in the cool night. Soon after waking, she heard the voices of the men, six she thought she’d counted, saying the first one that found her could have her. At fourteen, Morgan knew exactly what that meant. They were going to rape her, then more than likely kill her. Her parents would be looking for her. She would admit, only to herself, that they’d not be too upset about her being gone. Morgan had a habit of getting up in the middle of the night to see to one creature or another. So it might be days before anyone— The hot breath of air on her forehead had her whimper just a little. Lifting her head without opening her eyes, she felt it once again. It was hot but not sour-smelling. Opening her eyes, she looked right into the golden eyes of a leopard. Their noses touched. They were so close. The lick to her face scared her. While she’d seen the wild animals around the compound where she lived, she’d never been this close to one so dangerous. The farmers would kill them when they would take down a cow or something they raised, but no one could have prepared her for their beauty being this close.

The big cat put her paw on her head and pushed it back down, so it rested on the dirt. When she started to lift it again, the cat pushed her down again. Understanding that she was to stay where she was, Morgan closed her eyes. If she was going to be eaten, she was glad the cat was sparing her from knowing when it was coming. The sound, soft as a coin dropping onto the dusty ground, was all she heard before the large cat screamed. There was gunfire too. Something frighteningly close stirred up some of the dirt she was hiding on. The screaming of men was next. It wasn’t long before it was quiet, and she knew on some level that the cat had killed the men. The paw to her head again had her lifting it up to see if she was next. The cat had been hurt. Blood was pouring from her shoulder at an alarming rate. Sitting up, unmindful of whether it was safe to do so, Morgan tore at her nightgown to staunch the blood as she spoke to the leopard. “I think you saved me.” The cat just let her poke around at her wound, soon lying down when she asked her to do so. “The bullet needs to come out. If it doesn’t, I’m afraid you’ll get sick and die from it. I wish I had my knife here. But I think I can see it enough to get it out with my fingers. I won’t do any more than I have to. All right?”

Morgan worked for fifteen minutes in getting the bullet out. The cat never hurt her. Never tried to get away from her as she worked. Sweat poured off Morgan’s forehead as she finally got it free. When she was finished, she showed it to the cat. “See? Someone got a shot in. I promise you, I’ll make sure you’re all right. Do you have a lair? Someplace you can rest?” The cat stood up, and that was when she noticed she’d had kittens recently. “Oh no. Where are they? You left your den to come to save me? Come on. I’ll help you back.” It wasn’t far, only about a hundred yards from where the cat had come to her. It occurred to her that the cat was more than likely saving her kittens from being found when she killed the men, but Morgan was ever so grateful she’d spared her. Helping the cat into the den, she saw that she had three of the pudgiest little kittens she’d ever seen. “They’re beautiful. Oh, look at them. You are a good momma, Golden Eyes. They’re very fat. I’ll stay with you until you need to eat again. Then I’ll hunt for you.” The cat didn’t seem to mind when Morgan picked one of the kittens up, so she touched each of them in turn. “You’re very lucky those men didn’t find you too. But I guess you knew that.” She stayed with the family overnight. There wasn’t any way she’d be able to make her way back home in the darkness, so it was fine with her to be in the cave for the night. The kittens woke hungry a couple of times in the night. Instead of having Golden go to them, Morgan carried them back and forth to their mother. She seemed to be all right with her helping that way.

When the sun was coming up, Morgan not only made sure the family had water, but she also scavenged as much as she could from the horses the men had come out here on. Hardtack was in abundance, but she was also able to get herself some much-needed flint, as well as some blankets. Taking it to the cave, she put the kittens on one of the blankets and then sat down to watch them fall over each other until they had their spot picked out. It was calming to watch them, she thought. They were just too little to do much more than be roly-poly little kittens. Giving the hardtack to Golden, she made her way to her home. It was further than she’d thought it might have been, and she didn’t arrive there until the sun was nearly down. Going into the house by way of climbing up the back stairs, she heard her parents speaking from their balcony. Sliding out onto her own, she stood deep in the shadows to listen to what they might be saying. Her mother was standing at the railing, her father deeper in the room. “I cannot believe she’s gone.” Morgan started forward, wanting to assure her mother she hadn’t been hurt at all. “This was a brilliant idea you had, Malcomb. To have it look as if she’d been kidnapped, then killed. I have never wanted anything more than that child dead.” Her heart hurt. Her mind didn’t know how this was really what her mother was saying. They weren’t close, but she never thought she’d want her dead. But when her dad came out to the balcony too, she watched the two of them as they stood there in an embrace.

“Well, it wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be to get some men gathered up to take her. As you said, it’s a good thing now that she’s gone. When they find her body, it will be blamed on anything but me.” Mother said it wouldn’t be her fault either. “No. No one will bother with blaming you, my dear. For all they know, you’ve committed suicide because your daughter is gone.” It took her less time than it apparently did her mother to understand what her father was saying. As soon as he nearly pushed her mother over the railing, intending, she was sure, to make it look as if she had fallen to her death by her own hand, Mother grabbed her father’s coat. The two of them hung there for what seemed like forever. Would they both fall? Would they be able to save one another? She didn’t care. So when her mother’s weight took them both over the edge, Morgan stood there for several minutes, thinking about what had just befallen her family. Looking over the edge of her own balcony, she saw them there, tightly embraced as if in a lover’s hug and dead. Blood spread out beneath their heads as if a bucket of it had been poured over the two of them. Making her way to the kitchen area, she staggered twice in her grief. Not that they were dead—no, it was that they had planned her demise in such a cold way. Lincoln was there, the butler of the house when she entered. He took one look at her and sat her in the chair she’d spent more time in than the ones in the formal dining room. Lincoln, she knew, would be her family from now on. “Child, what is it?” She must have been a mess. Or looked on edge. The slap to her cheek stung enough that she was brought out of whatever thoughts she’d been having.

“What’s happened? Your parents, they told the household you’d been kidnapped. Are you hurt?” She told him everything, not leaving out anything, including the cat that had saved her. Also, leaving no doubt to the older man that her parents had planned for her to be killed this night. Lincoln sat down across from her after making her a cup of tea that was mostly bourbon. “You are mistress of the house now. Tomorrow we will find their bodies whilst you are still abed. You will say you were out with the creatures of the field. They will believe that well enough. That is where you are most of the time.” She asked him about the cats. “’ Tis your decision. However, if you were to bring them here, none of the rest of the staff will mind. It is you we stayed for all these years, and not your parents.” “I’ll need help bringing them here.” He said he’d go with her. “They’re far. Much further than I had thought. But I wish them to be safe, Lincoln. She saved my life, and I will do the same for her and her family.” “You have a good heart, child—a very good one. We shall leave now and take lanterns with us. A basket too so we might carry the little beasts.” She asked him if he didn’t want them here. “Nay, I want what you want. We all do. Tomorrow after your parents are found, we’ll be as we should have been. A good home and a safe one. Mark my words on that. I will talk to you, as we go about now that you are mistress of the house, what men will do to get to you.

They’ll want you, but you’re too stubborn to be a good wife to anyone seeking your hand. It might be well that there are cats here to protect you. You have become a very wealthy woman.” As they were making their way to the cave, she wondered if he knew how safe the house would be with leopards in it. Once the kittens grew up, they’d be as big as she was now. Smiling, she thought perhaps she wasn’t all that upset about her parents being dead. They’d been treating her as if she were dead for as long as she could remember. Golden seemed happy to see her. She licked her face and brushed her with her large paws. As Lincoln gathered up the kittens, she helped Golden outside to do her business. It took a great deal out of her, and Morgan had to carry her back into the cave. Once they were all loaded up in the buggy, she sat down with Golden to tell her what had happened. “So I’m motherless except for you. I know you’re a cat, and I’m only a human, but I think we can get along. When the men start to come—and according to Lincoln, they will—I’ll need you to protect me too. I shan’t ever marry. Not only that, but I’m also going to make it my life’s work to make sure animals such as yourself are as safe as I can make them.” Arriving home well after the sun had settled in the sky again, she made sure the mother and kittens were safe in her parents’ big bed. There was a fire in the fireplace for them should the night turn too cold. Morgan also made sure the mother had plenty to eat, having given her one of the steaks her father would treat himself to daily, while she had whatever else he had with his meal. Sleep didn’t take its time capturing her, luring her to a night’s rest. It hit her right between the eyes and had her nearly sick with exhaustion. As she closed her eyes, sleeping in her own bed as if nothing had happened, she knew she’d keep her promises to not just Lincoln and the other staff but to herself as well. The animals here would need her, and she was going to make sure they were as safe as they could be while she was still living. ~*~ Four years later Morgan watched the man as he ran out of her home.

How he’d gotten in was beyond her, but now that he was gone with a little less of his fancy clothing, she sat down on the front veranda and waited for the cats to come to her. Over the last month or so, men had been showing up at the oddest times to tell her she must marry them. They would all come around sooner rather than later. All of her leopards, as well as a plethora of other such creatures, would come to make sure she’d not been harmed or taken away from them. None of the animals would be harmed here, and daily another one or two would come limping into the compound and be welcomed. Golden came to sit at her feet, and she smiled at her when she looked at her. “He had it coming. We both know that. The pompous ass thought if he could tear at my clothing, I’d allow him to marry me so I’d be happy. He said I’d need someone like him to watch over my money and keep me from dying an old spinster.

Apparently, women aren’t meant to think beyond having a man around. I’m much happier without him, I think. What did he think I’d been doing here all alone since my parents died? Waiting on someone to rescue me? Not likely.” Morgan slid to the floor and put Golden’s head on her lap. Running her hand down the length of the cat, she could feel her newest litter wiggling around. “I am worried about you, mistress cat. You’re heavier this time with your brood. Not to mention, I know the wound you suffered for me so long ago bothers you more daily. The babes you brought here that night, they have gone on to have their own children. I cannot believe so much time has passed since that night.” She thought of something and put her forehead to Golden’s. “I just realized you’re a grandmother. Congratulations.” “That would make you an aunt in her eyes.” Morgan reached for her gun, something she’d been carrying since that night, and found it gone. “You cannot kill me, mistress, but I would prefer that you not harm me either. I have come to speak with you about the good works you are doing here. The one you call Golden, she has asked me to come to speak to you about a great many things. In addition, I have some things I need to ask of you.” “Who are you?” The beautiful woman asked if she could tell her in a moment. “So long as you know that whatever it is you’re hawking, I want no part of. We’re doing very well here on our own.” “You are doing better than well, I think. The ground is fertile here, thanks to your way of doing things.

Not all humans would leave an animal to rot on their land without doing something with it.” Morgan told her that other animals took care of it. “They have indeed. Even the things the larger breeds cannot eat or use, the smaller creatures come to salvage what they can. You have a good system here. A system that will not be popular for a great many years.” “I don’t want to have to go into town.” The woman nodded, her smile something she thought more than beautiful. “You said you came here because of Golden. She is a cat. How is it possible that she would call to you?” “Let me start at the beginning, please. The night your parents died, the night you came to help Golden, it was thought that you should have died along with them. Sometimes, with humans, the apple does not fall far from the tree. But you are nothing like them, are you, sweet child? You were not only different from them, but a kinder, gentler person than any of us have ever seen before. We have all been watching you these last years.” Morgan asked her who they were. “Ah, that brings me to your first question. I am Tellus, the terrestrial being that cares for and is wholly a part of the earth. The earth and the land that you have here. Not from my doing but your own, this land is rich beyond anything man has ever seen before.” Morgan didn’t speak, letting all the woman told her to settle into her mind. She’d been alone for most of her life now and had learned not to prattle on when there was no one to talk back to her. Petting Golden, she was glad to hear her purring. The rumbling of her throat was soothing to her for some reason.

“Mother Earth. I’ve read about you. You’re Roman.” She said that was correct. “All right. So you’re here because I have good land. However, I still don’t know why you took time out of your…what I’m sure is a busy day to tell me that.” “You are a jewel among all the stars in the sky, Morgan.” Confused at the words and their meaning, Morgan continued to pet her cat. “We, the other earth creatures, have been watching what you were doing here since that night. We’ve not once had to intervene in helping you care for the animals, all that you protect here. You have lifted a great burden from all of us. Even creatures you may not yet be aware of have found a home here among the others and have been safe from harm. One such creature sits there on your leg. His name is Button.” Morgan looked down at her leg and saw the tiny creature standing there. She put out her free hand, and when he hopped upon it, she brought him closer to her face. Yes, he was a little man, just like the men that had been coming around except for his size. Then while she was watching him closely, he spread out his wings and fluttered above her palm for several seconds before settling down again. “Faerie.” He bowed before her. “I have read of such creatures as this one. They are thought to be a myth. Such as you are, Lady Earth. I have either hit my head, or I’m being visited by creatures as magical as the sun coming up and then resting in the other sky.” “You are seeing magic, my child.” Nodding, she laid her hand back on her leg. Button didn’t sit on her leg again but stayed on her palm. “He wishes to be with you.

To help you in the coming years. For as much as I’d like to say your life will be filled with only riches, we both know it is never that way.” “Nay, it is not. The banker says I owe him great funds for a loan my parents took out before they died. Also, I have a man who is trying his best to catch me unawares, so he might rape me to take my lands. I don’t think he means to keep me around much longer than it takes for me to say, ‘I do.’ They only want what I have.” Tellus said she could help her with those things. “Thank you, my lady. But I’m sure you have enough to do now with the earth as large as it is.” “I do. But helping you is not something I take lightly, my child. We, all the creatures in charge of the parts of the earth you now own, are happy to help you. And in doing so, they will get the help they need as well.” Morgan asked her what they wanted her to do. “You will do it, will you not? Even not knowing what it is we ask of you.” “I will help the earth for as much as it gives back to us here. And that, as you know, is a great deal. We are self-sufficient here. Water is ours to use as we see fit. There is a roof over our heads when necessary. The fields, as you have pointed out, are rich and give us back so much more than we can eat. I share what I cannot have put up or preserved.” Tellus told her she knew that as well. “If you need me to do more, I will do it to the best of my ability.” “Thank you.” Tellus looked at her, then at Golden as she continued. “Golden will stay with you until the kittens are born. Her children will be the first of many creatures that will take on this new magic we wish you to help with.”

“She’s going to die.” Tellus nodded but didn’t look at her. “I thought when I’ve seen her around this time, she wouldn’t make it for long after. You do know she’s the only friend I have besides the people that work here? I’ve thought about, for long hours, how I will make it without her counsel. Without her snuggling up to me when I need it. I don’t know that I want to. But I must, for the others.” “Yes, you will,” Tellus told her of the magic that would be given to her. About the babes Golden would have, and how they would go on to be great men, to help her in ways that Tellus and the others hadn’t thought of yet. “The magic they will get will help them to be a part of the world of men. To breach such places that even now frighten us a little. We will need you to help them blend into such places. To walk, talk, and act like real men. The abilities we will give them will make them a prize should anyone find out. So it is important they do not give themselves away while men. Do you understand?” “Yes. I’m to be their teacher.” Tellus told her that she would also be their mother. “I have questions now, but I know I will have so many more when the time comes. I will teach them everything I can. Give them whatever step up they’ll need so long as I live. I promise you they will be the best of men. Not like the ones that come here sniffing out an easy way to my home.” “You will not die either, Morgan.

You will be around for their children to come into the world, as well as all the shifters that are to be born.” Morgan asked her about the men coming around. “They will not come around again should you wish it. Button will have an army of faeries that will come to your aid in that and anything else you might need them for. Do not be fearful of using them either. Rightly so, they are excited to serve one such as yourself. You have been titled with the name Queen of Shifters.” “You don’t have to do that, my lady. I said I would help you.” Tellus laughed, and it made Morgan smile. “I will do as asked. The rest I will accept as part of my duties, but I don’t see myself using it overly much.” “I foresee you using the magic given to you much more than you think you will.” Tellus laughed again, bringing yet another smile to Morgan’s face. “I will also give you a list of things you will need to invest in. They will fund you better than a bank will, and you will remain self-reliant at the same time. Also, the bank has been taken care of. He will no longer bother you about funds he thinks you owe him.” “Thank you for that.” Morgan looked down at her friend and ally in all this. “What will become of me when you no longer have a use for me, my lady?” “There will always be a use for you, child. A creature such as you will forever bond with the earth and make everything around you a better place. I have such faith in you.” Morgan told her she could only do her best. “And that, my child, is all I could ask for.” The two of them talked throughout the morning and into the evening. Ending up in the living room where there was a fire roaring in the hearth, they were served their tea there, as well as juice. She was told she’d need to be drinking a great deal more of the elixir. And that the fresher it was, the better it would be for her after using magic.

At some point, Tellus took her hand into hers and gave her the magic she’d need. The power of it washed over her in waves. So much so that for several minutes she had to sit still in her seat and wait for it to settle out. Not only did she receive the magic, but the knowledge of how to use it. Also, things she’d been told she must invest in. Things that Tellus told her would be worth a great deal in the future. After Tellus left her to rest, she was told, Morgan sat in the yard at the back of her house. Lincoln came to sit with her a spell, telling her there were faeries in the kitchen now that would make sure the household was safe. Also, he said, he’d been given magic as well. “It is to keep the house in order. To build out, when you need it, my lady.” She said she’d been told she’d need to have a larger house. “I find that hard to believe, but I will do what it takes to have you safe.” “I now have more land as well. Tellus told me there are now five thousand acres here that will be used for the animals in need. No one will be able to enter the land if they wish to harm anything that calls this place home. What am I do to with all this knowledge and wealth, Lincoln?

I know I’m to teach the next generation of cats born to Golden, but how much do you think they’ll need from me? What am I to do when they go out and have their own leap? I shall be an old woman with only you to keep me company.” He asked her if he was immortal as well. “You are. But I was told if at any time you wish to die, I could take it from you. No harm will come to you with it either.” “I think I shall stay with you, my lady. I think we will need each other in the coming years, don’t you think?” She said she needed him every day. “You are so kind to me, Morgan, that I wonder at times why your parents wanted you dead.” “They were in love with themselves.” She knew that to be true as soon as she said it. Looking at the older man, she smiled at him. “You and I will do the best we can and hope it’s right. Someday, I think we’ll look back on this and wonder what all the fuss was about. Don’t you?” “I think I will hold my thoughts on that until such time as it comes to an end.” He laughed a little. “Do you believe it will come to an end, my lady?” “No. I don’t. I don’t have any idea why, but I think we’re going to be having something new and strange happening as a daily routine.” She stood up when he did. “Let us begin this new phase of our life, Lincoln, and hope we make it work better than the thoughts in my head are making it. All right?” “Whatever you wish, my lady. We will do well together, I believe.” She hoped so. It seemed like a great deal was depending on her doing just that, making it work for the safety of all involved. She only hoped she knew enough and was strong enough to make it work for all of them.

Pierce McCray Sleuth release Blitz &Giveaway

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

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

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

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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….

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?

 

 

 

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

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

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

 

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Prologue

“Joey, there’s a call for you.” She turned and looked at the man she’d hired just yesterday to answer calls for her. “He said it’s important he speaks with you now.” “Tell him to fuck off.” Turning back to the work she was doing, she knew that Harvey, her secretary, wasn’t going to last the day if he didn’t stop bothering her with little shit. “Well? Did you tell him?” “No. He said he’d have to have the police come here if you didn’t want to hear what he has to say. I’m not sure telling him to fuck off is such a good idea.” She stomped toward him. “Don’t hurt me.” That stopped her dead in her tracks. She’d never hurt anyone. Joey knew she had a volatile temper, but she never hurt people. Telling Harvey she was sorry for snapping at him, she picked up the phone and gave the idiot who called her today all she wanted to in the way of anger. “You had fucking better have your ducks in a row, you uneducated couch potato. I’m working in the event no one told you. What the fuck do you want?” His laughing wasn’t something she thought was helping. “I’m hanging up now. If you ever call here again, I will—” “Your niece, Rebecca Hightower, has been murdered.” Joey slid to the floor, her legs suddenly no longer strong enough to hold her up. She asked the man if her husband had done it. “At this point, we’re only assuming he did. Not that he was the one that pulled the trigger, but I think you understand what might have happened. Her daughter, Becky, is staying with my family. Becky told me I wasn’t to trust your sister, Margaret, with any information.” “No. Don’t call her. She and Peter are close.

I think she is still having an affair with him despite him being married to Rebecca. Where are you?” Ian told her his name as well as where they were. “And Becky? Is she hurt too? It wouldn’t be any sweat off his balls to kill his own child.” “She’s fine. Scared out of her mind. The doctor told us she was dehydrated and malnourished. We’re taking care that she is getting plenty of food and water. Rebecca is tagged as a Jane Doe for now. The police are friends of the family and have taken precautions to make sure no one knows of her death or that she was found. Becky told my daughter that her father would kill us all if he were to find us helping her.” “More than likely, he would. He’s not the best of people to be around.” Joey thought of all the things she knew about Peter. “I’d like to come and see Becky if you think it’ll be safe. I don’t want her hurt either. She and Rebecca have been through a great deal while she was married to that fat fuck.” “You certainly have a way with words.” She laughed with him. “If you don’t mind me saying so, I thought that with you being Becky’s great aunt, you’d be—at least sound a little older. You can’t be much older than Rebecca was.” “We’re all three the same age. Margie and I are twins. Rebecca is my older brother’s daughter. He was only sixteen when he got this girl, Sheila, pregnant. Mom had just found out that she was going to have us.

It was a race, Mom used to tell us, to see who delivered first. We were born a day earlier than Rebecca. My brother committed suicide about a week after his child was born.” Ian told her he was sorry. “Me too. I have no idea why I’m telling you this. You more than likely have a lot of things going on there too. Anyway, I’m not going to be coming there until I hear from you. Also, call me on my cell phone from now on. If you call and I don’t answer, it’s because I’m working. But I will return your call if you leave me a message.” After giving him the phone number, she told him she wanted to speak to Becky if she could. Ian told her he’d make sure she called her back when he returned home tonight. She was staying with his wife and her sisters. “Christ, man. How do you live in a house full of women? You must be the most patient person in the world to be able to do that.” Ian laughed, and she had to smile. He had a good laugh, one she thought she’d like to hear more often. “Just keep me updated, please. And when the time is right, I’ll tell my sister. She’s a pain in the ass most of the time, so I won’t subject you to that. Also, if you could tell Becky I love her, that would be great. Thanks for telling me, Ian. I’m sorry you’re involved in this. But I do appreciate you taking care of Becky for me. She’s the best thing Peter ever did.” After hanging up, she sat there on the floor, wondering what she was supposed to do now. If it were up to her, she’d hire someone to kill Peter off, then live a very happy life behind bars. But she’d made a promise to Rebecca that she’d not kill him or hire anyone to kill him. She’d feared for her life. “Joey? Am I fired?”

She looked up at Harvey and realized she had to be a nicer person. When a man older than her was afraid of her, then she was most certainly doing shit wrong. She told him she was sorry. “I knew you said no phone calls, but when he told me the police would be involved, I thought it best that he told you instead of the police showing up. That really would have upset you.” “It would have. You did the right thing in that.” She told him again she was sorry. “I’ve been under a great deal of pressure with this work. I don’t want to mess it up, and with all the stress of that, I tend to be snappish. I’ll work on trying not to make you fear me in the future.” “I thank you for that.” She nodded, then stood up. When he went back to his desk, she went back to her workroom. Being a clothing designer wasn’t as glamorous as people saw on television and in movies. It was difficult work trying to keep one step ahead of the people in the same industry. Not to mention having an idea what colors would be hot when the next season rolled around. Not that Joey put that much stock in the trends. Joey designed for the everyday woman. No puffy sleeves for her. Nothing made of taffeta or silk for this line. She did design clothing for evening wear, but her meat and potatoes were the things that women wore every day to work or even for shopping— sturdy clothing that stood up well to time, washing, and the seasons. “If you were to ask me if I’d wear that color, I’d have to tell you no. What is that called?” She looked over at her best friend and the woman that had given birth to her. Her mom was her partner too. Joey told her mom the color. “Pumpkin pie? You have got to be kidding me. If I had a pie of that color, I’d think it had turned.

What are you going to mate it to?” “Purple.” When she picked up the paisley print she’d been searching for before the call came in, she hung it on the board in front of her next to the pumpkin pie. She knew it would work, but she still wanted her mom’s opinion. “What do you think? Too much?” “No. I think it works well. I can see this in a shirt and the pie in a pair of shorts, or even a nice pair of pants. I know you hate the word slacks, but that’s what I was thinking of when I saw it. I really do like it.” Nodding, she put the two colors on the plate with the design. “I have a feeling you’re avoiding telling me about the phone call.” Joey nodded but didn’t look at her mom. “What is it, baby? Does it have to do with Rebecca?” “She’s gone.” Mom nodded but didn’t say anything as the two of them spoke quietly. “Becky is all right. Staying with a family in Ohio. I can’t go there until they figure out what to do about Peter. I’m also not telling Margie.” “No. She’d be all over that. Crowing to the winds that she is going to be the next Mrs. Hightower. The two of them should have married, to begin with. Then it would have been over with for this family. You know as well as I do that she would have cut ties with us so quickly we’d need a birth certificate to prove she’s related to us.” It was nearly nine that night when she heard from Becky. They talked for over an hour, and Joey felt so much better for it. She was being watched and taken care of. Also, she’d turned over the book and all the other things she’d collected in her young life to be put in the family safe. Joey wasn’t sure how good of an idea that had been, but there was little she could do about it from here. After hanging up with her niece, she was ready for bed. But a call from her sister, of all people, kept her up for the rest of the night.

“What happened today at work?” She asked Margie what she was talking about. “You. You got an important phone call that sent you to the floor. What is it? Rebecca again? If you know anything about her, you’d better be telling me, Joey. You know she’s run off again with his child.” “How would I know she’s run off? And the last time I remembered, Rebecca is a grown woman and can run off without people knowing about her whenever she wants. Are you having me spied on?” Margie said she was. “Why? What could you having me spied on do for you? I run a design shop, Margie. What on earth do you think you’re going to find out by doing that?” “You never know. I did find out you were upset, didn’t I? Were you going to call me and tell me about it? Doubtful. When did you become so secretive, Joey? It’s not a good look for you.” Joey asked her sister when she’d become so paranoid that she had to have her watched. “When you started not taking my side when it came to Peter. He’s a good man, you know. You should have more respect for him. All those things the paper is saying about him are lies, and you’d know that if you were to get to know him a little.”

“I’m not even sure why you’d think I should care what his life is like. As for what the papers say, your little spy should have told you I don’t have a newspaper delivered, nor do I own a television.” Margie told her she told her that. “Goodbye, Margie. I don’t know where you got your information, but I’m not discussing my personal life with you. Call off your spy, or I will. And press charges.” It was a woman. Joey decided she was going to take measures she’d never thought she’d have to with her own family. Making two phone calls, she felt better for taking a stand. In the morning, only a few hours from now, she was going to do what she should have done long ago, start keeping an eye on those that worked for her. Joey had been slacking on a lot of things of late. Well, no more.

 

 

 

Kylan Prince Of Tigers Release Blitz & Giveaway

 

Emmie Rankin didn’t trust men. She had been brutally raped at fourteen and now had her daughter, Olivia, as a result. Olivia was now a teen herself. Although an attorney by trade, Emmie had had to give up her practice to stay at home and take care of her father and her child.

Kylan Prince was a black tiger shifter. He had been waiting a long time for his mate to come into his life. Now that she was finally here, he was determined to do everything he could to convince her that he was what she and her daughter needed in their lives.

 

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Harper Wilson and all her siblings were relieved when they received the notice of their parents’ demise. No one deserved it more, and the only reason Harper agreed to go back to that little town in Ohio was to make sure they were truly dead.

Bryant Prince and his family were immortals and hadn’t aged since they’d reached the age of twenty-eight. He and his family had always lived next door to the Wilsons, but he never knew the Wilson children. The Wilsons had always kept to themselves, so no one had any idea what was going on in the little house of horrors. If they had, the Wilson parents would have been dead a long time ago.

There was nothing left of the Wilson house but one wall. The fire had taken the rest. The garage, however, was still intact, and this was where Harper wound up. Drawn in by dark, morbid memories from her childhood. Bryant watched her, knowing that he’d found his mate.

 

Allison Sheppard had come back to town to bury her siblings. Allie’s sister and two brothers had robbed the local bank. Samson Prince had killed two of them to protect the innocent people in the bank, her baby brother was sitting in a jail cell awaiting trial. Allie wanted to wash her hands of all of them.

It didn’t take Allie but a moment to realize that the entire town looked on her as a pariah, like she was responsible for what her siblings did. Not that she could blame them, but the silent accusations did hurt. The sooner she was finished with this mess, the better. She would leave this town and good riddance.

Samson only wanted to make the woman understand that they weren’t monsters, and he had no choice in the bank, but from the moment he was within two feet of her, her scent overwhelmed him. Allie was his mate, and this changed everything….

 

Piper James was at the funeral home doing the hardest thing she’d ever had to do—bury her mother. The last ten years had been difficult, with her dad’s illness then him ultimately dying, and then her mother being diagnosed with cancer. Her siblings, Mary and Louis, had been no help at all, financially or lending a hand with their care. Now that their mother was gone, those two were going to be a handful, Piper just knew it.
Fisher Prince, a rare black tiger shifter, had a gift. He was able to find people and things with little effort. When a judge called him and asked him to find Piper and keep her safe from her siblings, Fisher agreed to help him out, but he wasn’t expecting to find his mate in the process.
The bond between the two was nearly immediate, and when he gave her a ring gifted to him by Aurora, queen of the earth, neither were prepared for what happened next.
Mary and Louis were never going to stop pursuing Piper unless someone intervened. Would the Prince family be in time to stop the inevitable?

 

 

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4.Kylan https://amzn.to/3cNLOY3

 


 

 

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Prologue
Kylan was running behind, as usual. He had been at his apartment cleaning out his fridge when he was told they were having dinner together tonight. Just as he was finishing his clean up, Summer came to speak to him. “Your house is complete, sir.” He looked at Summer and asked her what she was talking about. “Your mate. I’ve been to see her, and she has wonderful ideas about your home you’ll share with her. I’d not be surprised if she were to fall in love with you this night.” “I don’t have a mate, Summer.” She smiled at him. “How do you know what my mate wants in a house when I don’t know a thing about her? In addition to that, what do you mean, she’ll fall in love with me this night? I don’t have any plans to leave the house.” “She is coming with her family for dinner tonight. Lady Piper spoke with her just today.” Kylan asked her what that had to do with him. “Why everything, my lord. You’ll be so happy with her daughter as well. Your mate’s daddy, he is most ill, but we can fix him up when he is ready.” Kylan sat down and thought about what she was telling him. “What’s her name?” Summer asked him if he meant her daughter or his mate. “Both. For that matter, who told you she was my mate?” “I know these things. But it was Lady Piper that told me about her. She is so very beautiful, sir. Her hair is like the sunshine, it is so bright. Her daughter has dark hair like yours. Also, your mate—her name is Emmaline, but her dad calls her Emmie—has one blue eye and one green eye. She covers it with contacts, but even without them showing, she is very lovely. A perfect match for you.”

Now he was headed to Fisher’s home for dinner and to meet his mate. The big rig in the drive of their home was the first indication of what she did for a living. Going to the back door, not wanting to be pushed into something that was wrong, he saw Piper there waiting on him. She looked too slick for his tastes. “Summer told you, didn’t she?” He asked Piper if it was true. “It is. She’s very outspoken but nice when it suits her.” She told him about the man who was now working for her. “How are you finding this out, Piper? Did you get some sort of vision magic that you’ve not told anyone about?” She grinned and told him she had. “Is she going to be happy to find out I’m her mate? Or are we going to have a battle on our hands? Is her family going to come around and beat me up too?” “The only family she has is her father and daughter. The father of her daughter, Olivia, is dead, killed by his father when he raped Emmie when she was only fourteen years old.” Kylan sat down at the kitchen table, waiting for the next part of Piper’s tale. He knew there was more to it than she was saying, but he didn’t ask. “There is no one chasing them—no bad people after them. They’re not wealthy like you are, but they have learned to stretch a dollar until it screams, as her dad says. There isn’t a bad skeleton in their closet that they’re going to keep from anyone.

Collier, her father, is a recovering drunk but has been sober for nearly eighteen years. They’re just a family that has had some bad things happen to them, but they’ve recovered nicely.” “Who else knows she’s my mate other than the three of us?” She told him she’d not even told Fisher yet. “What’s going on here, Piper? I don’t know why, but I have a feeling things aren’t as cut and dried as you’ve made them out to be.” “She’s an attorney. A damned good one too.” Nodding, he told her he and his brothers had been attorneys several times over their lives. “Emmie specializes in corporate law. Like I said, she’s damned good at it too. We need her in this family as much as you’re going to need her as your mate.” “I don’t understand this.” She told him that was all right. He would. “You’ve told me I have a mate, then leave me hanging about why she’s so important to this family. That’s not very sisterly of you.” “No, I suppose it’s not. What if I told you she needs to be a part of this family so you can save her father’s life? Make him have a good feeling about himself.” Kylan told her he could do that without taking a mate. “Why are you being so obtuse about this? I’m trying to do the right thing here and not give you too much information before you’ve met.” “Is that important?” Piper nodded. “All right. I’ll not ask you anymore about her. But I do have to know, why is it that you’ve told me this?

I can understand you’ve got rules about not telling too much of what the future holds, but you’ve told me a great deal.” When her house phone rang, she told him it was for him. Going to the phone, he picked it up and said his name. He heard the words being said to him, but he was having a difficult time making them into information after the first comment. After telling the officer where he was and how long he’d been there, he hung up the phone. “My apartment complex blew up forty minutes ago.” She didn’t say anything but did hand him a glass of water. “Everything is gone. No one was home, so they’re all safe. You knew this. Didn’t you?” “When I saw what happened, I knew I had to get you from the house. You would have been there had I only invited you to dinner. You would have come here, but it would have been too late for you to get out. So I told you of your mate so you’d leave early enough not to be there when the boiler burst.” He nodded. “It was the only way, Kylan. I didn’t know what else to do. I can’t see you hurt.” “Thank you.” He thought about what she’d said to him. “You said I have to save her father’s life. Was that it? Did he come to my apartment too?” “No. He needs you in another way.” Getting up, he staggered a little but made his way to the living room. He saw Olivia first. If she looked only half like her mom, he was going to be in deep trouble with the beautiful women to come into his life. Kylan hugged his mom and dad, introduced himself to Collier, and sat down on the couch where his brothers were. He looked at Emmie as she spoke to Harper about the runs she’d taken out for them today. When Emmie looked at him, Kylan knew he’d been wrong.

He was going to be in more than just trouble with his new mate. He was going to be running around with his tongue hanging out whenever he saw her. Christ, she was more than beautiful. She was gorgeous. The poke to his ribs had him looking at his mom. “You’re staring at her like you’re going to eat her alive. If you keep that up, young man, she’s going to hurt you.” He looked at his mom. “I’ve only just met her, but I have a feeling she won’t hold back if you do something to cause her trouble. Is she your mate?” “Yes.” Mom nodded and leaned back on the couch, pulling him back with her. “She’s beautiful, isn’t she? I mean, all women are beautiful, but she’s…she’s beyond that.” “What the hell is wrong with you?” He looked back at the woman they’d been speaking of. “You’re staring at me like I’m some sort of shit under your foot. Either say what you have to say or stop looking at me like that.” “You’re my mate.” There was a deafening silence in the room. “I only just found out myself. You’re very beautiful.” When Emmie stood up, he did as well. Not only was she good looking, but she was also nearly as tall as he was. He’d estimate she was at least six feet, if not a little more. Before he could pull her to him, if he had that thought in his head, Olivia stood between them. She was shooting daggers at him with her eyes. “Hello.” Olivia didn’t so much as utter a single word to him.

“I’m Kylan Prince. You must be her daughter.” “I’m the spitting image of my mother. If you don’t back off right now, mister, I don’t know people’s space bubble—I’m gonna hurt you. I’ve been trained by the best there is in defending myself and others.” He smiled at her and told Olivia he was glad to know that. “You won’t be if you’re picking up your nuts from across the room.” “Now, see here.” Mom got up and came to stand by him and his new family members. “You might be able to speak that way at home, young lady, but you will hold your tongue on—” “She’s not allowed to speak like that anywhere,” Emmie told Olivia to apologize to Mrs. Prince. When she did, Olivia also told her that her mother raised her better than that. “I’m going to keep right on raising her better than you did this moron. Not that I’m blaming you. I guess not everyone takes to being a good person like the rest of your family apparently has.” “Kylan does have his days. How about we all have a seat, then we can see what there is to know about the rest of you.” Alarm ran over his body when he heard one of his brothers calling to Collier. Moving toward the man, he could see that not only were his eyes glazed over in apparent pain, but his lips were blue. Kylan heard his mother speak as he was helping Collier to the floor. “Call an ambulance. Be quick about it.” Taking off the tie he had on, Kylan spoke to the elder man. He told him what he was doing with each step that he took. Emmie was on the other side of her dad, telling him to open his mouth. Before he could do what she wanted, his eyes closed, and Kylan knew the man was going to need more than just his help, but everyone’s.

Performing CPR, he didn’t stop until Emmie said it was her turn. Before the ambulance arrived, two of his brothers had helped with the rotation. Not that he couldn’t have done it for a lot longer, but he didn’t want to mess up by hurting her father while he was trying to save him. The EMTs came in with their equipment and switched off with him when they had his chest exposed. It only took them seconds to hit him with the defibrillator and bring the man back. They were hooking Collier up to an IV and calling in his vitals when Olivia came and hugged him. “He’s my grandda. And besides my mom, all I have in the world. You saved him for me.” Holding her as he stood up, he wasn’t the least bit surprised to see Emmie sitting on the couch now with her head between her knees. “Can you talk to my mom? Don’t touch her. She’ll scream if you do. Just talk to her and not touch her.” Kylan didn’t understand the no touching part, but he did sit on the couch with Emmie and spoke to her. He wasn’t telling her anything substantial, but just telling her what the EMTs were doing as they worked to keep her father alive. When Emmie sat up, he asked her if she was all right. “I should have noticed he wasn’t well.” Kylan said those closest to people sometimes didn’t see things. He was guilty of the same thing. “Don’t pamper me with niceties. I should have noticed he wasn’t feeling well when we drove here today.

He said his head hurt and that his belly was upset. If you think you might have even the slightest chance of making me your mate, you’ll never lie to me or try and sugarcoat things that are going on. I won’t have it.” “All right. I had a little bit of a warning when I got here that he might need me. I was on top of it because of that.” She asked him if it had been Piper. “It was. She and my brother work for some very powerful people, the queen of the earth, Aurora, and she gifted them with all kinds of magic. That’s me not sugarcoating things. Why did your daughter tell me not to touch you?” “I’ve been raped before, and sometimes I have trouble with sudden moves and touches. What did she tell you about us?” He told her about the explosion and the reason he was told about her. “So you only know I’m your mate because someone told you I was. Is that the way it works?” “No. I can smell you. Your scent calls to me. It also warns other males, other cats, that you’re a mate to someone powerful.” She asked him what that meant. “I’m a very old and very powerful tiger. Black tiger, as a matter of fact.” “I won’t give up my daughter without a fight. And I’m including death to you if you even try.” He said he’d never ever do that to her or to Olivia. “We’ll see. I have to go to the hospital. My dad is going to need me. He’s on all kinds of antidepressants.” “May I go? The hospital might need me to answer some questions about what happened.” She told him to suit himself. “Will Olivia want to go?” “I’m not leaving her alone with strangers.” But in the end, Olivia wanted to stay. Kylan knew it was costing Emmie to leave her only child there, but Olivia said she’d be fine and was stressed out too much to wait on someone to tell them what was going on. “All right. But you know the rules and what to do.”

“I do, Mom. I’ll be fine.” His mom didn’t say anything, but he could tell she was curious. He was as well, but he didn’t ask either of them what the rules were. Instead, he got his car so that Emmie could ride with him to the hospital. He had a feeling it was going to be a long night. Kylan only hoped it was going to be a good night rather than snipping at him like she had been doing. Although, he was enjoying her show of temper.

 

 

Joey The Whitfield Rancher Release Blitz & Giveaway

 

Autumn was born the seventh child of the seventh child, and what no one else realized, she was also the seventh generation to be born, making her the seventh of seven. That alone brought her a great deal of magic. But her parents mistreated her as a child because she wouldn’t share her magic. After her mother made an attempt on her life, she grew up living with a kind uncle. As a result of the abuse she received from her parents, Autumn was dying from cancer.

Joey Whitfield wasn’t the biological son of Blake and Shadow, but they loved him just the same. Joey was different. He had always been a loner, but a near-death experience as a teenager had granted him powers and abilities so strong even he didn’t understand. It wasn’t safe to be around others. Rather than hurt those he loved the most, Joey had struck out on his own until he could discover exactly who and what he was. Days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into years. Joey couldn’t bring it upon himself to face his family.

Even from afar, Joey knew what Autumn was to him. But he’d been alone for so long, could he trust himself to be around others? He knew he should and could save her, but that would require getting past his comfort zone to do it.

Joey was at a crossroads in his immortal life. It was do or die. He just needed the courage to do what had to be done or risk living an eternity alone.

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Dylan Hutchinson lived and breathed Army, and she’d been undercover so long she’d forgot what it felt like to be a civilian. But the last mission took a turn for the worse and not only was she hurt, but she’s been informed that she could no longer do her job. It’s either a desk job as a recruiter, or she’s out.

Evan Whitfield didn’t have to work, but he loved his job as a surgeon. And when as his tiger he found an old man wandering in the woods with Alzheimer’s and confused, he wanted to help the family. The family had a daughter in the hospital too, and they were struggling. Evan thought the daughter might be not as sick or hurt as she claimed to be, so he took it upon himself to check her out. Evan was surprised to find that she was not only hurt worse than they claimed, she was also his mate.

For a doctor, Dylan thought Evan was dense. What part of go away didn’t he understand? She wasn’t the mate or marrying kind. Her life was over, not beginning. He needed to just go away….

Sunny, or Sunshine Davis, is a well-known investigative reporter. After her recent article shuts down a drug lab, she just disappears. People everywhere are looking for her. Truth is she’s been shot and left for dead. Tanner, a vampire, has other plans for the feisty reporter. He needs her help, so he saves her. His old friend, Ollie Whitfield, owes him a favor, so he sends her there to lay low for a while.

David Whitfield is on a deadline with his publisher. When he’s writing, he’s in a world of his own. When his grandda, Ollie, asks him to hide out a friend, he’s all for it. He’d do anything for his grandda. What David doesn’t expect is for the woman he’s supposed to be hiding out to be his mate. A very hurt mate that has his tiger in a possessive uproar.

Because Sunny technically died before Tanner could revive her, she has a little difficulty remembering the events just prior to her death, but when she does the revelation rocks her to her core. And her baggage can put all the Whitfields in danger.

Josh had taken a month off from his Realtor job to get the construction finished on his house, but he was leaning toward it being a permanent vacation. He still liked selling houses, but something was missing. It didn’t excite him anymore and he was tired of the rat race.

All Carter wanted was to get a job and start her life over again. She had just spent the last ten years in prison for a crime she didn’t commit, and that made finding a job difficult, if not downright impossible. She didn’t want to go back to the halfway house, but things weren’t looking good.

Ollie Whitfield took an instant liking to the young woman and her sister, Rachel. He’d make sure his grandson gave her a job in the new greenhouse he was opening up. There was no since in her beating the pavement for a dead-end job when he had one for her. He just had to convince her of that. She had some dad-blamed notion in her head that she’d bring danger to the family.

Josh’s grandda had already told him of the scary things the woman could do, and he was worried that Carter and her sister might be taking advantage of an old man. But when Josh walked behind her at the dinner table and caught her scent, he was floored. He had found his mate and neither of them were prepared for it.

Carter knew he was a shifter, but the things she could do would get them all killed, and she wouldn’t allow that. She would somehow convince him that this mate thing was a bad idea.

Ivy Walton loved her job as a surgeon but hated her boss. What part of “I’m on vacation” couldn’t the woman understand? She’d just lost her house to a fire, and she needed this time away with her sister. They’d been on their way to the coast when Ivy’s car broke down, and this little town they’d found for repairs was a breath of fresh air. Ivy found the non-hectic life of a small town to be appealing to her raw nerves.

Adam Whitfield was a farmer and, like his brothers, a Bengal tiger. He had just purchased his grandparents’ home and was putting on the finishing touches. The home was large, too large for a single man, but he liked it. Furniture was still sparse, but he figured he could add to it in time.

When Adam met Ivy at a family dinner, he knew instantly who she was to him. But could a renowned surgeon be happy with a simple farmer? He hoped so. He hadn’t been looking for his mate when he found her, but now that he had, he wasn’t letting her go. If she went back to the city, he’d go too whether she liked it or not.

Mason Jane Barnhart had nothing left to live for. She was dying and there was nothing anyone could do about it. Rather than suffer a long agonizing death, she wanted it to be on her terms. She’d let the icy water claim her, and if she was lucky, she wouldn’t suffer.

Oliver Whitfield had been watching the girl. He couldn’t believe that anything could be so bad as to want to take her own life. But when she jumped from the bridge he had to go in after her. His tiger, bigger and stronger, would have to save her. When they got her to shore, Evan said that changing her was the only thing that would save her. Oliver didn’t want to, but he couldn’t let her die. He had a strange feeling that she was supposed to be the mate to one of his sons.

Adrian wasn’t sure he was ready for a mate. The timing wasn’t right. He still had so much left to do while running for public office, and if word got out that she tried to take her own life, he’d have that scandal to deal with too. But when he caught her scent, he knew, she was his and all thoughts of not being ready for a mate fled his mind.

When Mason opened her eyes, she was fit to be tied. She wasn’t supposed to be here, she was supposed to be dead. That’s what she wanted. What had those meddling Whitfield’s done now?

Shadow Henderson was grateful to the Whitfields for taking them in. She had to keep her mother and grandmother safe from her Uncle Thomas. The man was heavy fisted and had kidnapped her mother and was set to starve her to death just because he was embarrassed by her, he had his sights set on becoming the next president. His sister’s affliction with Altzheimers was an embarrassment to him. Shadow even suspected that he had killed her husband, but she couldn’t prove it.

Blake Whitfield was trying to adopt two boys he had taken into his home to foster, but with being a single parent, the judge went off on him, and Blake wound up taking a bullet for his troubles. Blake was immortal so the bullet wouldn’t kill him, but it still hurt like hell. His parents insisted that he recuperate in their home.

Several of the Whitfields had been pushing Shadow to meet the yet unmated Blake just to see if they were mates. Shadow wanted no part of it. She wasn’t happy in her last marriage and had sworn to never marry again. There was no way she would let anyone push her into anything she didn’t want to do ever again. That included the high and mighty Blake Whitfield.

 

Autumn was born the seventh child of the seventh child, and what no one else realized, she was also the seventh generation to be born, making her the seventh of seven. That alone brought her a great deal of magic. But her parents mistreated her as a child because she wouldn’t share her magic. After her mother made an attempt on her life, she grew up living with a kind uncle. As a result of the abuse she received from her parents, Autumn was dying from cancer.

 

The Whitfield Rancher
1.Evan http://amzn.to/2vCYKM5
2.David http://amzn.to/2fOK6dk
3.Joshua https://amzn.to/2IdH4wT
4.Adam https://amzn.to/2znvmcI
5.Adrian https://amzn.to/2HsBl5k
6.Blake  https://amzn.to/2pzDvZK
7
. Joey  https://amzn.to/3iNEmx8

 


 

 

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Prologue

“Autumn Hunter?” Autumn stood up and made her way to the medical assistant. “Your name is really Autumn? Your parents hate you or something?” The same question, along with a few others she got every time she met someone new. Smiling, she did not tell the assistant they did indeed hate her, but not until later, after she’d been older. Instead, she stepped up on the scale and thought about how much weight she’d lost in the last year and a half. Being terrified of being caught up in shit and on the run, all the time would do that, she supposed. “You’re here about your belly issues and the results of the test, correct?” Autumn told her she was also out of her pain medication, could she get a refill. “We’ll have to clear it through the doctor first. Once he’s told you—” The assistant looked at the folder in her hand, then at Autumn. She knew it was bad, but how bad was something she was about to learn. Reaching over to take the folder from her, Autumn read the words there before the woman asked for it back. Handing it to her, Autumn was at a loss for words. “He’ll be able to explain your options.” It was on the tip of her tongue to tell her she knew what her options were. There was only one. Death. It was just how she chose to do it. “You’ll need those pills. I’ll make sure you have samples before you leave.” Nodding, Autumn wondered if she should even stay. They’d told her— Well, she’d found out she had stomach cancer. She supposed knowing how she got it would be good, but it wouldn’t change the outcome. Standing up, Autumn was ready to leave when the doctor came into the room.

“I’m sorry, Miss Hunter.” She nodded, sure that he knew she’d read the notes on her chart. “There are things we can do to make things easier on you. A great many more than we had even ten years ago. We’ll make you as—” “How long do I have? I mean, you know that, don’t you?” He nodded. “I don’t know if you remember my first visit with you, but I don’t care for bullshit answers. Just tell me how long I have and whatever pertinent information I need right now. The rest of whatever you tell me is going to go in one ear and out the other otherwise.” “Yes, I remember. You have just about a month. I don’t know how far you got to read, but it’s spread all through your body. Had someone bothered to give you good care when you were ill the first time, you would have had better chances of survival than you do now, two years later.” She asked him what he thought caused it. “Someone tried to poison you, as you know. And that weakened your immune system, which was ripe ground for cancer to dig in. I’m really sorry, Autumn.” “I need to go.” He nodded and told her to come back in a week. “Do you think I’ll be around then?” “I hope so. You’re going to hurt a good deal more than you are now. I’ll make sure you have what you need to deal with it. Autumn, whoever did this to you, it’s the same as if they’d used a gun to kill you.

In fact, as you like it right to the truth, a bullet would have been much faster and far less painful for you.” “I know, but there is nothing I can do about that now.” Autumn got off the table and started to pull on her jacket. “I don’t know what I’m going to do right now, so I’ll call you soon and set something up.” “Autumn, please don’t end your life.” She looked at him and realized he had every right to think that would be something she’d do. “I promise you, when the time comes, you’ll not feel a thing. I’ll be there with you to make sure of it.” “I promised someone once that I’d not do that. And even though she’s gone, I won’t break my promise to her.” She could feel the tears building up in her eyes. “I need to go and think. Your assistant said she had some samples I could have, maybe.” The woman came in and handed her a white bag. It was heavy, but Autumn didn’t bother looking inside. She had enough to think about instead of whether or not she had been given a bag of rocks. Once out in the sunshine—the rain had stopped for now—she pulled on her sunglasses and made her way to her car. Crying without anyone seeing was an easy way to avoid the strange looks that she got. Getting inside her car, she drove to her home. There had been a plan to pick up a few things at the grocery store, but Autumn didn’t feel like that now. As she pulled into the driveway, she saw a car there that she recognized and decided she wasn’t in the mood for her sister either. Moving up to the porch, she saw April sitting there with an angry look on her face. “You locked the door. And my key doesn’t work anymore.”

Pulling out her keys, Autumn unlocked the door and slipped them in her pocket rather than her purse. “Why would you change the locks? I’ve been coming and going out of this house since before you were born.” “Only because someone carried you in and out. You’re only eighteen months older than me. I changed the locks because it’s my house now, and not everyone’s drop in whenever you’re in town place. What do you want, April? I’ve had a shitty day, and you’re not going to make it any better.” “Well, aren’t you in a shitty mood?” She didn’t point out that she’d just told her that. When April opened the refrigerator door, Autumn pushed her own body against it and shut the door. “I want some juice. You always have the best kind.” “I have the best kind because I like the best kind. I don’t care for sharing it today. What. Do. You. Want?” April sat down. Flopped would have been a better word for it, she supposed. “This is getting you no closer to leaving me alone. I want to think.” “Grant is kicking me out of the house,” Autumn asked her why she thought she’d care. “I know you never liked him, but he was my husband. We have a child together.” “First of all, I like Grant. It’s you I don’t care for. And it’s debatable if the child is his or not. I told you he wasn’t as stupid as you seemed to hope he was. For Christ’s sake, April, the man is a doctor. It’s doubtful to me that they allow you to practice medicine when you’re stupid.” April asked her why she was taking his side in this.

“Because, and this should be no surprise to you, you’re a bitch. You cheated on him several times in his own bed. The kid you shove aside for some other rabble isn’t his, and he’s a nice man. I said I like him.” “Uncle Ross should never have left you this house. There are seven of us girls from his sister, and it should have been divided between all of us and not just you.” Autumn explained to her, yet again, that he didn’t like her either. “You’re very obtuse today. What’s up with you?” “I have cancer from the poison Mom and Dad gave me, and it’s spread throughout my body.” April just stared at her for a moment, then asked her who she was leaving the house to. “Get out, April. Now, before I hurt you. You’re wondering why Grant kicked you to the curb? Perhaps you should record yourself having a conversation with someone and listen to it. Maybe that will give you a clue. You certainly don’t have any compassion anywhere in you. And the word you meant to use isn’t obtuse. It’s fucking rude. Get your insults correct. Get out and don’t come back. Ever.” Shoving her sister out the door, she locked it after checking to make sure she had the keys. Then she bolted the door, going to the back and side doors to do the same. If anyone came around now and thought to get in, she was going to blow them away with her uncle’s shotgun in the cupboard.

“He left me the house because I stayed with him for four years while the rest of you acted like he was nothing more than a bank account for yourself.” She was glad he’d pulled his money from the bank after having a wall safe put in the house. There were no credit cards for them to steal. No checks to write out for cash. And everything he owned had been changed to her as the owner with him so no one could take whatever they wished from a dying old man. The house wasn’t much—two bedrooms, a living room, kitchen, and a single bathroom. What it did have going for it was the three hundred acres surrounding it, as well as the rigging that pumped out oil, the wide creek that supplied water to several towns below it, as well as a mine. The mine alone produced coal and gems, such as gold and diamonds, at a nice rate. No one, just her and Uncle Ross’s attorney, knew the amount of land she’d been left, nor the other operations supplying her with a good amount of income yearly. Autumn sat down on the couch and thought about her day. She had had so much planned for the afternoon after her appointment, but all that had gone to shit. Knowing you didn’t have long to live sure put a damper on things, she thought. The seven of them that April had been talking about were her sisters, all but one older than her—April was the closest to her in age—and all named for a month in the year. Autumn had always wondered if they’d planned to have twelve children. The sisters were named January, February, and April. There was May, June, and July, September, and then her, Autumn. The reason she was the odd one out was because she’d been born in September too—the thirtieth, as a matter of fact. Her name would have been October had she been born just twelve hours later. That was only one of the reasons her parents had hated her.

Autumn was also the seventh child of a seventh son. It might not have made a lick of difference that she’d been born in September if she’d been a boy, what they’d been told they were to have. But being a daughter, the seventh one, it caused all kinds of shit to happen. Her father had a long line of sevenths born to his side of the family. It would only be skipped over when there was a different sex born to that line as the seventh child, such as her being a boy. Autumn was the seventh of a long line of seventh same-sex children. Autumn was magical. “But not magical enough to keep from getting cancer.” Trying not to think about what her parents had done to her so they could, she supposed, cut off her magic, she looked at the things from her mailbox. Credit offers were nothing new to her, and she made sure they were shredded. With those applications in the wrong hands, her sisters would cause a disaster. She had a cell phone bill, as well as a bill for something called Dispatchers. Opening it up, she knew just who had put her name on the billing. It was really too bad on January’s part. Autumn had made it perfectly clear that any bills not okayed in writing by her would not be paid. She would have thought all her sisters would have figured this out by now. Pulling out her phone and making the call come from a restricted number, she didn’t think January would answer. When she did, Autumn asked her about Dispatchers. “Oh, they’re this amazing company that will pick up anything you order from anywhere in the state and bring it to you within twenty-four hours. That way, with me, just having a baby, I don’t have to bundle her up and take her out. It’s so she won’t get sick.” Autumn pointed out that it was eighty-five degrees where she lived. “I know that, silly.

But she could still get germs. Why do you ask?” “I’m not paying this bill. Not one dime of it, January. I made that clear to you guys when Uncle Ross died.” January tried telling her about germs and the baby. “Since I didn’t knock you up, nor did I have her for you, she is not my responsibility. Not now, not ever.” “You got the house, Autumn. The least you can do is pay for a few things extra for the rest of us. What’s it going to take for you to realize you’re not all that special?” Autumn thought about her sister’s house and tossed an expensive glass vase to the floor. “Did you do that? Damn it, Autumn, that was a wedding present from his parents. You’ll pay for that.” “Yeah, good luck on trying to prove I did it from Ohio when you live in California. I’m not paying this bill. And I have no idea how many things you’ve had delivered, but for six grand, I would have thought it would have been cheaper to let the baby have a cold instead of paying this bill.” January called her a bitch. “Perhaps, but you’ll be hearing from my attorney.” Hanging up on her felt wonderful. When the phone rang again, her sister’s number, she turned the phone off and put it back in the coffee table drawer. It was only used to call them anyway. Feeling better about herself and what had happened, Autumn decided to have a salad for dinner. ~~~

“It’s been two years. How do you feel now?” Joey told Tanner he felt like he could hold his own with his magic now. “Good. I’m sorry to spring this on you, but you don’t have a lot of time to get to your mate. She’s having issues.” “What sort of issues?” When Tanner didn’t tell him, it left him to guess or rape his mind again. “Tell me, Tanner, so I can tell if I really do need to hurry along to get to her.” “She’s dying. And soon, from what I’ve found out.” Joey asked him what she was dying from. “I don’t have all the details just yet, but some form of cancer. She’ll need you to heal her before the big guns, as Ollie used to say, come for her.” “How long will it take us to get to her?” Tanner pointed to the tiny looking house that sat back from the road a good way. “We’ve been here the entire time?” “Yes. I didn’t know she was so bad when we came here. But I thought it could do us no harm by being as close as we could in the event she needed you. I should have told you, I suppose, but I don’t like having things changed around when I have no say over them.” Joey just cocked a brow at him. “Saving you from the flames is not the same thing. We needed to make sure of your abilities, and in the end, we were so wrong about that.” “Yes, no shit.” Joey had been sleeping in his tent for the entire time they’d been here. With the magic he had, he’d been warm and toasty when the cold came in. Now it was summer again, and he was starting to feel the heat at night. He also wanted a meal he didn’t cook over the grill and a long hot shower. As he packed up his gear, he realized Tanner was gone again. It was just as well. They had worked hard in the two years, and he wanted to move on as well. Gathering up his gear, he started toward the house. Might as well get this over with. Meeting his mate might be good or bad, but he’d not know until he got there. The screaming had him dropping everything he had and taking off at a run. His tiger took him over before they got too far, and the screaming was cut off. Whatever was going on, he knew it was pain and not just someone letting off some steam.