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.
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Dylan Hutchinson lived and breathed Army, and she’d been under cover 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 down right 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.
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The house was coming along nicely. Adam still had a few things to get. He’d not thought of the size of the living room when he’d ordered the couch, love seat, as well as two large arm chairs. The room could use more furniture. Turning on the light switches at the panel, he watched as each of them went on and off with different buttons. Whoever had built this house, it had come with a lot of little extras like that. Adam didn’t remember his grandparents ever mentioning it, but since they’d lived here a long time before he was born, it had never occurred to them to tell him that the switches controlled the lights—not magic as he’d thought when coming here. Going out to enjoy the nice warm morning, he sat on his back deck and leaned back in the double sized rocker, giving it a little motion. Josh and Carter were due back in a few days, and he couldn’t wait. The two of them had been sending pictures of what they had seen, and he was glad for them both. Adam had invited his family over tonight, and they thought they were going to enjoy some takeout at his home. He was as excited about that as he’d been in a long time. But little did any of them know, he was ready for a large meal. None of them knew that he’d bought new things and hired a staff. The cook,
Nate Turtle, was an old buddy of his grandda’s. He’d told him what he was up to, and the man thought it was a hoot. Adam supposed that he’d have to get used to having the man around. He thought the man talked as much as Grandda did, and he sounded just like him too. Going into the house, Nate asked him if he wanted anything to eat. “I don’t think so. Not now, anyway. I’ll just eat a big lunch. I have to go over the books for the ranch, as well as see to it that the rentals I have are up to par.” “You should eat, Adam. If Ollie were to find out you were skipping meals, he’d have both our hides. Now come on. Sit down and I’ll make you a manly breakfast.” Adam didn’t have any idea what that might entail, but he was up for it.
“Just tell me how you want your eggs cooked.” Adam had lost some weight because, in the summer months all the way to fall, he was busy all the time. Pulling out his phone, he ordered two more chairs and looked over bedroom sets, comforter and all, to find one that he liked. His mom would murder him if he went at this buying stuff half willy, as Grandda said all the time. The breakfast was huge. Adam stared at it for a long time before he looked up at Nate. He asked him who he was feeding with this much food and Nate only tisked at him. Adam had been relieved when Evan showed up and took half the meal. Even that was too much for either of them. “I need a favor from you. It’s not so much a favor as it is a question.” Adam asked Evan what he needed from him.
“I’d like to go in halves with you on setting up a hotel.”
“I’m buying a hotel?” Evan nodded as he ate one of the four eggs on his plate. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed this or not, but I’m a farmer, not someone that can run a hotel. I don’t have time to work out the plans for a hotel. I just got things here organized enough for me to have a real bed in my room.” “You only have to go in halves with me. I have the money, but I think it would be more fun if you and I had a project together.” He eyed his brother and asked what was really going on. “All right. I’m bored out of my mind—not at work, but at home. Dylan is working on this thing that takes her to some places I can’t go, and she might have to do something with someone to take them down. The boys are in school all day. Grandda has that job working in the diner, and Mom has those fundraisers she always does.”
“Evan, what makes you think that owning and operating a hotel is going to help you with your boredom? I mean, that sounds like a lot of work. I’ve been by the one that used to be in town. It’s closed down, and has been for about a decade. It’ll need a total upgrade.” Adam felt excited about it, but wanted to make sure that Evan was really serious about this and not just shooting bullets—another thing that Grandda said. “I’m great with going in on this with you, but you know that we won’t be able to do anything, like renting rooms, until summer, right?” “I know. But seriously, I need this. And I think you do as well. This is downtime for you, and I think you might like it so much that you won’t want to plant come spring.” He told Evan that wasn’t possible. “We’ll see. By the way, there is another doctor that just arrived the day before yesterday—a Doctor Walton. She saved Mr. Williams’s life.
He had a heart attack, and she was there with him to give him CPR right away.” “What’s she in town for?” He told him what her sister had told Dylan. “So she’s just breezing through? That sort of sounds lame. Where is she headed to if not here?” “Why the third degree? Is it because you’re thinking one of them might be your mate? Now that would work out for me a great deal.” Adam told him he was glad that he could accommodate him. “You know what I mean. Since I took over as head of surgery, I’ve not had a lot of time to do operations. It would be nice to have a good doctor that can take up some of my slack for a change.” Adam knew that his brother was overworked, which confused him as to why he’d want to do this hotel thing. When he was on his way out of the house, Evan turned back to him with a smile on his face. Adam had already figured out that he’d bought the hotel and had a crew working on it. Evan was pouting when he drove off, and Adam was glad to have been able to burst his brother’s bubble with his last bit of information. Going to the garage, he was startled when he came upon someone lying in the hay that he’d laid out for the cows for later today. “May I help you? You do know that you’re trespassing, don’t you?” She nodded but didn’t say anything. “I don’t mean to be rude, but what the hell are you doing in my barn at seven in the morning?” “I’m looking for Tanner.” He didn’t say that he knew him. Adam wasn’t sure that he should anyway. “He’s my maker—or I thought he was for a very long time.
recently. I was wondering if he was about. I have been searching for him for a very long time.” He reached out to the old vampire and told him what he had in his barn, as well as what she’d told him about Tanner being her maker. When he laughed, Adam let out a long breath. He was glad to have something go right. And it was only seven, as he’d told her before. Is her name—? Let me think a moment. Ah yes, Wanda. Ask her please. And in the meantime, I’m sending Flora to you. She knows her as well if it is indeed Wanda. Adam asked her what her name was, confirming it was Wanda just before Flora showed up. Tanner spoke again. She is mistaken about me making her, however. I was only there when she woke, and she has blamed me since. I have no idea what reason she has for coming here. I’ll find out and let you know. Right now, her and Flora are catching up. But it seems as if Flora is inclined to tell her that you’re here.
He told Tanner what she’d said about mistaking him for her maker. I’m coming. The sun isn’t too bright yet that I can’t come to you. Tanner was standing next to him just as he finished talking. Adam had asked him once how he could travel so quickly. Adam had to ask, and had learned that Tanner didn’t just disappear and appear as everyone thought. “I can travel at a very high rate of speed—much too fast for a human or anyone younger than me to see. If you were to picture me while I’m moving, you’d see a slight blur and nothing more.” He told him that electronics were vastly improved nowadays. “Yes, I suppose that they have. But why would anyone be looking for a vampire? I mean, we’re not real to a great many people. Wanda, it’s been a very long time. How are you faring?” She stood up and looked at Adam, then at Tanner. “He belongs to me, as does his entire family. You touch one of them without permission, then I will kill you.” “I’ve no wish to touch the big tiger. But I’m in trouble and I know not how to fix it.” She turned then, and he saw the blood that was streaming down her back from a wound up by her hairline. “My master, he called to me. When I refused to do as he wished, I was punished. I only just managed to escape. To warn you, my lord.”
“Is Randal still looking for me? You know that I’m not worried about him, do you not?” She nodded, then shook her head. “Come with me and I’ll find you a safe haven. Once you are healed, then we’ll talk.” She thanked him. “Think nothing of it. If you are in trouble, as you said, then you’ll be better at winding your tale around to make me understand.” They disappeared, except for Flora. She came to sit on the corral post that Adam had been working on until dark last night. When she seemed content with just watching him, Adam started to whistle. While he didn’t like lots of noise, he did like to whistle old tunes. “Randal is a vampire.” Adam stopped working to look at her. “He is bad news—for humans and paranormals as well. It would have done us all a favor should my master have killed him long ago.”
“What’s he done? For that matter, why would he hurt one of his children? I thought that was a big rule.” She told him it was. “Okay. Perhaps this would go better if I stop asking questions and allow you to speak.” He winked at her and she smiled. He could see that she was very nervous about something. “Long ago, before even trains and cars were around, Randal was friends with my master. Tanner was a good man even then, though he’d not think so. I was being injured by Randal. Many of my kind had been caught and put into a large cage, one that was made especially for fae.” Adam nodded, figuring he could ask her what that meant later. “He had torn their wings off, you see, so that the magic could come to him. It would take millions of us to fulfill his need, as I’m sure he knew. Tanner came to see him, and he saw what he was about to do to me. Tearing off a fae’s wings is the same as it would be to humans to have all their limbs cut from them.” “How many of you had he injured before Tanner came to where he was?” She told him, and he shivered. His sorrow for what had happened was great. “Six hundred of you. I’m so sorry for your loss, Flora. I’m assuming that Tanner somehow had the man stopped. By force or asking?” “He took his kiss. You understand that is what a group of vampires is called, correct?” Adam nodded and asked her how that had happened. “It is easy when you are as old as Tanner.
But he quit him as well. Told Randal that should he darken Tanner’s place on this earth just once, he would never do it again.” “So the two of you became friends after that. But I’m thinking that there is more to this. Not that taking wings from anyone is all right, but Tanner is a forgiving man. At least he is to us.” Flora nodded and moved to the other stall when he did. “I’m only making myself busy work. So if you’d like to go indoors, I’m sure that we can find you something to eat.” “Nay, this is fine, my lord.” Adam asked her what else had happened. “Several years later—I think at least a few decades.
I cannot pinpoint that part. Time is my worst enemy when I need to remember something. Anyway, several days after Tanner found his mate, they were out celebrating with myself and the two of them. The restaurant was filled to capacity. A large ship was headed out to sea, and they were enjoying the people who were going to board it.” “This ship, did it go down?” She nodded. “Then it has been a few decades. Okay, go on. I’d like to know what happened to Tanner.” “Tanner was just going about his business. I stayed at the table with Fredrick. The two of us were watching the crowd, caught up in the way they were happy.” She looked at the newly filled bins. He’d have nothing to put into them until the spring, and he thought that she knew that he was just wasting time. “The first person that we saw fall was a younger man that was making drinks. I thought him only to have fallen. It wasn’t until Fredrick spoke that I realized he was dead.
By that time, there were over fifty people on the floor, bleeding out. Randal was walking through the crowd, slicing whomever walked in his path as he made his way to our table. He was there to kill Tanner, because he thought him to have gotten him in trouble with the council. He had, of course. Then the trouble started, worse than before.”
~*~ Ivy made her way to the end of the public streets and started back the way that she had come. Jogging was the only thing that she could find that would make her sleep after a surgery, even if it had been one that was easy to do. She looked at the bench that sat in front of the little store, and watched as they all waved at her. Not stopping, needing this more than she could say, Ivy waved back but kept going. Evan had pulled some strings for her. Ivy wasn’t sure what that might have entailed, but she was now licensed to practice in Ohio. The last time she’d moved and had to apply for the same thing, Ivy knew that she’d never move again just for that reason. It was a long process, and not working would drive her nuts. Her home was gone. It broke her heart when she thought of all the little things that she’d collected over the years—her diplomas, for one. There were trinkets that she’d picked up while she traveled after getting out of college. All gone because of just one man. Ivy had a doctorate in medicine—surgery actually. She had a masters in languages, as well as one in children’s services. That one she’d never used again after the first month. The thought of making sure that children were in a safe place was about as easy as it was for her to stand up to piss—messy and difficult. Her cell was going off when Ivy took a right and took the bike path for the last leg of her journey. “Walton.” She answered every call she got, at home or on her cell, the same way. When the person at the other end asked her to hold, she nearly hung up on them. “Can I help you?
If not, don’t bother leaving a message. I won’t answer it anyway.” Her cell phone was private. The only people that had the number were those where she’d worked for the last ten years, as well as the one here. Ivy was leaning toward staying around when a woman finally answered. “I’m calling from Middleton General. We’d like to ask you if you’d mind cutting your vacation short. You’d be able to take it later in the year, but we’re very shortstaffed right now.” Ivy could almost see Lily putting her name on the schedule before calling her. That was confirmed when she came back on the line. “I have you working on Monday, as well as working in the emergency room for the rest of the week. Wednesday, I have you marked for a double. You will be paid overtime for helping me out with this.” “No. I’m on vacation for a reason, and I have no intentions of cutting it short. I gave you several months to find someone else while I was gone, and you waited too long to cover your own hospital. I’m not going to work that schedule or any other one until I return in November, as I told you when I submitted and got approved for my time off.” Ivy couldn’t stand Lily. She was manipulative as well as a bitch. “If that is all you called me for, then I’m hanging up now.” “But as I told you, we’re short-staffed.” Ivy told her that wasn’t her problem. “What am I supposed to tell the sick and downtrodden about why we can’t get them in to see a doctor? Do I tell them it was because you were too selfish to come into work? Where are you, anyway?”
“Nun-ya.” She asked where that is. “Nun-ya business. That’s where I am. Don’t call me again, Lily, or so help me, I’ll put in my resignation. Have a good day.” Ivy disconnected the call and let it ring to voicemail while she finished up her run. Running every day was what kept her in shape, she supposed. The extra that she did to blow off steam didn’t tire or hurt her because she was in such good shape. Cooling down after finishing up the loop through the woods that Evan had told her about, she walked until she was standing in front of the bed and breakfast that she and her sister had been staying in. Ivy didn’t want to go inside. She’d been cooped up all day yesterday in the hospital, and she needed to have the sun on her face. Of course they were calling for snow over the next few days—that was the only way that she’d stay inside. The snow and driving in it gave her the willies. Meghan was just coming out when Ivy was moving up the stone walkway. “I’m so glad to see you finally. You have to go with me to breakfast.” She told her that it was only about seven in the morning. “I’m well aware of the time, Ivy, but I’ve been busy. I have been up all night talking on the phone for you.” “I’m not going to go eat anything with you until I get a shower. And what the hell were you talking about that kept you from your sleep?” Meghan told her that she’d been trying to find out about her insurance on her home. “I’ve already taken care of that. Yesterday, as a matter of fact. While you slept late like I thought you would today.” “Well, you could have told me that.” She said that she’d not asked. “Ivy, I swear sometimes that you like pissing me off.” “I do. I’m going to shower. I can meet you or you can wait on me. I don’t care which.” Meghan huffed at her. “I was thinking that we could eat at the dive we passed out on route seventy. Your choice. But I’m going up.” Peeling off her clothing as she went, Ivy turned on the shower. The water pressure wasn’t all that much, but there was plenty of hot water. While she was waiting on it to heat up, she pulled out her cell and looked at the missed calls.
Twenty. And more than likely that many messages as well. Blocking that number, and any others that she could think of coming from the hospital, Ivy looked at the one number that she didn’t recognize. The message said it was from Doctor Whitfield. Calling Evan back after deleting the rest of them, she brushed her teeth. Dylan caught her in mid spit. “I hope that you’re not sick. I’d surely hate to go and get that cleaned up. Puking or even the sound of it can have me gagging in no time.” She told her that she was brushing her teeth. “Oh, you’re an early riser. Good. I’d like to meet you for a little talk. It can be here at my house or the diner in town. I’m good with either.” “Town. My sister feels that I’ve put her out by taking care of things on my own. And since we haven’t eaten, we’ll go there.” Dylan laughed. “I have to take a shower. I run every morning if I get the chance. And I haven’t lately, not in the operating room.” “Fine, I’ll meet you there. Also, later we’re going to meet with my mother-in-law. We usually don’t meet in town, but I guess we’re going Christmas shopping while the
stores aren’t busy. I myself order online whenever possible, but she claims it’s much nicer to touch the things that you’re buying first.” Dylan snorted. “I could care less if it felt as soft as it looked online. And if it didn’t when I got it, I’d just send the shit back.
I’ll see you in a few.” The change of subject didn’t bother her. Mildred, her scrub nurse, did it all the time. She’d be talking about cake and end up telling her about some shoes that she’d purchased. Standing under the water made her moan. What a way to start out the day. Ivy hoped that everyone else would be tolerant of her appetite—which was huge— as well as Meghan. Now that she’d put her in a pissy mood, she’d be that way all day. Washing her hair for the second time, Ivy smiled. This might be just what she needed to lighten her own mood. When she was getting dressed, Ivy realized in that moment that this was literally the only clothing she had. Sitting down on the bed, Ivy felt sorry for herself for a little while before she got up to finish dressing. The insurance for her home was going to give her a nice settlement, not that she needed it. She hadn’t had time to spend any money for ages, so it just sat in the bank. Ivy decided right then, she wasn’t going to rebuild at all. Even though she had more than enough money to do that if she wanted, Ivy thought about the hassle of trying to find property to do that, fill the house when it was done, then move into it. She supposed that the latter would be easy enough. There wasn’t anything left to be moved. Going down the stairs, she saw that Meghan had waited. She, of course, was dressed like she was going to a wedding or something, while Ivy had on jeans and a Tshirt. Ivy’s shoes, always a problem to her sister, were only tennis shoes and not heels. Ivy didn’t know if after all this time she’d even be able to walk on heels. Her opinion on the subject was that comfy was better than formal any day of the week. “You certainly took your time about it. And you’re paying for my breakfast. You should have told me that you had done it and I’d have not have had to stay up all night.” Ivy pointed out that she’d not asked, and it was her home anyway, but Meghan said that it didn’t matter. “If it doesn’t matter, then why do I have to pay for your meal?” Meghan huffed again and Ivy laughed. “Oh, I forgot to tell you, I’m also having breakfast with Dylan.
” Meghan stopped so suddenly that Ivy ran into her. Asking her what the hell she thought she was doing, her sister looked down at her dress then back at her. “Why didn’t you tell me earlier so I could have dressed up?” Ivy said that she didn’t think she looked bad. “Of course you don’t. You wouldn’t be caught wearing a dress for anything. When I pass away, the one thing that I’d like for you to do is wear a dress. Please?” Ivy didn’t even bother answering her. Going into the restaurant in front of her, Ivy realized that she didn’t know any of the people around here at all. But thankfully, Meghan did. Making their way to the oversized table with the beautiful woman, Ivy did sort of feel like she should have taken better care for her appearance. Dylan introduced
herself to her and Meghan sat down when Ivy did. Ivy just went with it. It was too late for regrets, as well as there was no other clothing that she owned. Ivy ordered the Big Breakfast and asked for two of them. The woman taking their order didn’t even bat an eye as she wrote it down. Ivy might like this area, because they didn’t get all twisted up about shit.