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.
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Dylan Hutchinson lived and breathed Army, and she’d been undercover so long she’d forgotten 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.
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 Whitfields done now?
The Whitfield Rancher
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Bryant yawned as he drove to the place where the supposed artist lived. He didn’t care for doing favors for people. But when a Whitfield asked, people tended to do what they wanted immediately. Bryant had already made up his mind that even with the favor he was doing for them, he certainly wasn’t going to ruin his reputation by saying that this person was good when they weren’t. He’d done that before, and would never do it again. The directions that he had were perfect. He got out of his car just as an older man came around the corner of the house. He’d thought he was going to meet a woman who, he’d been told, was a little on the rough side, so he thought perhaps he was being scammed. The man put out his hand before he could get back in his car to leave. “My name is Ollie Whitfield. Shadow has herself an emergency and couldn’t be here to greet you, so my family, who set this here meeting up, sent me to take care of things for her. You must be that art guy?” He told the man that he was a critic. “Yeah, someone that tells people if they’re good or not. I don’t envy your job, sir. I don’t. For the most part, people don’t like to hear that they’re not good at something that they enjoy.” Bryant thought he’d just insulted him, but he wasn’t quite sure. Following the man, he didn’t ask. It seemed to him that the man was ignorant of such things, and didn’t want to get into a debate with him.
Standing at the door, Ollie pulled out a set of keys. Inserting the one that seemed to match the lock, he turned to him once again. “I know that it’s your job like I said, but I have a feeling that you’re going to be plum surprised at what’s behind this door. Surely as I’m standing here, I don’t think I’ve ever in my life seen anything so pretty in my days. And that’s a great many days.” Bryant didn’t comment but nodded. “You don’t say much, do you?” “I’m not going to be pushed into anything, Ollie. I’m good at my job, and you having money is not going to change my mind either way on what’s on the other side of this door.” Ollie asked him if he’d already made up his mind not to like it. “No, that’s not it at all. But glasswork? It’s been done and overdone over the years. The artist that works in this media either makes these tiny little things that collect dust and are better served in a mall store, or they make things that no one in their right mind would buy. I’ve seen it all.” “Have you now?” Bryant rolled his eyes. “Well, then. I guess there ain’t no impressing you. So, I’ll just wait for you here, and you can pretend to go in and have yourself a look around. But don’t touch anything. It’s glass, you know.” Instead of the door opening as he thought it would, Ollie reached into the opening, and the wall opened up like a garage door would have. Bryant watched Ollie, waiting for him to say something more, point out the little horses that were all one color, and devoid of any kind of difference than the thousands of other little horses that were made in places like this one.
When Ollie laughed and turned to enter the building, Bryant turned too. “Holy mother of God.” Bryant couldn’t move from where he was standing. Just taking in the work area made him jealous of the person that got to work in such an area. “This is not a regular workshop, is it?” “I heard Shadow tell Mason, my granddaughter-in-law, that her grannie worked for a stained-glass man. Ended up marrying him too, I guess. Well, Grannie, that’s her name, would be in charge of ordering all the glass for his projects. Then when the run was finished up—I guess that’s what he called the limited work he’d done—he’d give all the leftover glass to Grannie. She was good at working the glass, too, I’ve heard.” Bryant hadn’t seen a single piece of work yet because of the way the glass seemed to beacon him to come and look them over. “Now Shadow, she ain’t like her grannie nor her momma when it came to making pieces. She said that the pieces seemed to speak to her about what they wanted to be. So she has this here idea that she can do what it wants. Shadow surely does have some fine talking glass, I tell you.”
Nodding again, touching his fingers over the glass that was in front of him, he couldn’t believe the number of colors that were there. Bryant figured that there must have been ten shades of light brown, the color differences so soft that he’d bet only an artist would be able to detect them. As he was moving around the workshop, he saw pieces that he’d thought about earlier. But these were different in so many ways. There were horses there—not tiny, but about ten inches or so tall, and they were exquisite in their beauty. The detail on the one that he had picked up was almost as if the person who had done it had a horse right there in the studio with her. As he started to put it back, he noticed there were drawings under them, details about weight and size. Turning to ask Ollie about it, Bryant nearly crushed the horse he had picked up to see under it. “I think you should put that there little one back afore you drop it.” Nodding, he had to turn back to the shelf to do so but was hard-pressed not to just drop it so that he could look at the find in front of him. “I thought for sure that I’d be on my way back to my home by now.
You having seen it all and such, you didn’t seem all that impressed with being here.” “I was wrong. Christ, was I ever wrong. This is…I have to tell you, Ollie, I’m not usually so blown away by someone’s artistic ability, but words fail me on this one. They’re carousel horses, aren’t they? And so beautiful that it nearly brings tears to my eyes.” Ollie laughed, and Bryant laughed with him. “I guess I’ve been caught at being a jaded art critic. I think I’ve been this way for some time, and a horse of all things brought me out of it. Please tell me you have the authority to sign her to a deal? Please?” “I don’t, I’m sorry to say. But she doesn’t have any idea that you’re here, as I was told you knew.” Bryant had forgotten about that in his need to have this woman in his sights. “I don’t know what all she’d need, but to say that it’s gonna be easy to convince her, I’d say that ain’t going to be the way it is. I hear tell she’s been told for some time she’s just like you thought she was. A hack.”
He’d not said that, but Bryant knew that he’d implied it heavily enough. Getting closer to the first of four horses, he wanted to touch it so badly that he only allowed himself a finger to it. While it looked ready to be ridden, he knew that no child, or even a stuffed animal, would ever sit upon its back. Bryant asked if he could take a few pictures. “You tell me what you’re gonna do with them, and I might agree.” Bryant told him that she’d need a dealer. A person that would represent her in the art world. And she’d need a gallery set up. “Oh. Well, I have to talk about that with the family. How about you follow me on back to my home and we’ll work on that for you? As I told you, she’s got herself some family stuff going on right now, and it’s got her staying at my house.” He wanted to explore what other art was in the building. As surely as he was looking at the horse, he knew there was going to be other art here. Someone this good would have had to practice their skills to get this good. But, because Ollie was nearly pushing him out the door, he had to leave. The man standing there startled him enough for Bryant to give out a little scream. “This here is Nate. He’s gonna be watching over this place while she’s gone. Shadow has herself an uncle that would come in here and destroy this here stuff just on account of him being her uncle.” Bryant begged Nate to watch over it carefully.
“I will. Shadow is a good friend of mine, and I’d not let anyone harm her again.” Bryant had a feeling there was more to the story, but he was being shoved into his car to get going. Before he started his engine up, he saw about fifty wolves come out from behind the building, and Nate himself shift into one. Bryant found himself giddy with excitement. Never, not in the last two or three decades, had he been this excited before. The woman, whoever she was, was going to tear apart the art world and be the best thing to ever happen to glass blowing. He had a prize on his hands, and he was so happy with it that twice, he had to calm his breathing, as well as his heart rate. While driving, in order to keep his mind on the job of not having an accident, he thought of and rejected ten people that he thought could do a good job of representing the woman. The person needed to be calm and able to handle the elderly. Bryant had a picture of the woman he’d be working with in his mind of being about fiftyish, tall, and willow thin. Shadow would have long white hair that she wore in a single braid down her back, with pretty combs at the sides to keep it out of her face while working. Laughing to himself, he wondered how dead on he was because he knew that someone with this amount of talent would have to have had a great deal of experience at what she did. The drive didn’t seem all that long to him. He had his mind full of ideas and things that would have to be done to make her famous. Several times he started to call some friends of his but was afraid of jinxing it for himself. Bryant might only be an art critic, and he knew a great many people. But there were only a few that he would trust with this. Shadow would have to have the best and only the best in this. He was going to make sure of it if it was the last thing that he did.
The little town that they entered off the highway was about as quaint as he’d ever seen. There were two stoplights on the main drag, but only one of them was working. The one that was blinking looked to be still decorated for Christmas in that a medium sized tree was hanging from it and the yellow blinking light served as its star. As they drove through the town, he noticed all the fields that seemed to be just waiting for someone to plant them. There were, of course, a lot of trailers along a few places, but the houses all looked well-maintained, and there was what looked to him like a brand new grade school. Then he noticed that the homes were no longer small and cute. They were into some seriously expensive houses that had large SUV type vehicles in the front, with gated driveways that seemed to hide something bigger than he’d seen so far. When they pulled up to the gate where Ollie was waved through, Bryant realized that he was going to have to rethink everything. This woman wouldn’t need him to make her rich. Christ, from the look of the home that came into view as they cleared the tree lined drive, she might well be on her way to being too rich for even him to help out. When he got out of his car, Ollie was there to greet the person on the front deck. Bryant nearly made a misstep when she smiled at him. Christ almighty, she was far and away the most beautiful creature that he’d ever laid eyes on. And this was with her wearing a pair of jeans and a sloppy sweatshirt. Dressed to the nines as his momma used to say, she’d command mountains to dance with her.
~*~ Blake stood up when asked. Today was the day that he was going to officially be the dad to two boys. Bennett Carlson, who had been with him for several weeks now, and Joey Phillips had come to him just before the New Year. Both boys were beside him in the courtroom today, and he had never been so proud to have his family with him as he was at this moment. “Mr. Whitfield, it says here that you’re a single man wanting to adopt these two young men. Is that true?” Blake told Judge Holloway that it was. “And for the record, why is it you think you can do a better job than the state can? I’m sure that you can’t. So why don’t you explain to me why it is you think you can do better.” “I can answer that one, sir.” Blake reached for Bennett when he moved toward the front of the courtroom. “Blake here, he’s going to ground me after this here thing—this thing, but I’m sure that I’m going to have a better answer than he can. He’ll be all mushy.” Blake had only cleared his throat, and it had the desired effect on Bennett to fix his language. He’d been on both boys about the proper way to speak, and when Bennett corrected himself. Mom winked at Blake when he looked her way. “What is it you think would make me believe you, young man? I’m a man that is hard on people adopting kids without a spouse. I believe that in order to raise children such as yourself, there needs to be as many eyes on your kind as there can be. Including a police officer not afraid to use his nightstick. If I can’t have that, then there should be two people helping to raise one child. No one should take on two of them without constant supervision.”
” Bennett ignored Blake when he asked him to come back to him. “It seems you’re not very well behaved if you were to ask me.” “I didn’t, sir. But I was in a two people home with my mom and dad, and all it got me was nearly starved to death and beat up daily. Blake hasn’t once hit me or Joey, and believe me when I tell you, I sure gave him cause to when I first went to his house.” This was going to end badly, Blake just knew it, and looked at his dad, who looked like he was enjoying the show. No help there either. The judge was also making him uncomfortable about some of the things he was saying. “Blake got me about a month ago. I want to show you something. This is my report card from when I was in the home with the other kids. You can see there that I wasn’t doing what I needed. They even beat my a—my butt a few times for wasting the time of the teacher that was helping me. But Blake didn’t do that. See my card there? I ain’t…I have never had an A in anything, and there I have six of them. You want to know why? Well, I’ll tell you. He didn’t do nothing but find out that I needed glasses to see with. I couldn’t read what I was doing, and he fixed me rather than treat me like I was a dummy.” “It’s been my experience, young man, that kids will say anything to get with someone that lets them get away with things. How long did it take you to change your grades on this report to hand to me?
Or did someone in the family do it for you? It never works out when you people are paired up with someone from the right side of the tracks. Especially a person with as much money as the Whitfields. You’re planning to rob them then kill them, aren’t you, young man?” Blake watched Bennett. When he turned to them, his entire family here with them, he smiled at his grandda. Blake started to protest about the comments, but Dylan, who was next to him, held him back. “If you have nothing further, you delinquent, I would like to finish my questions to Mr. Whitfield.” “I have one more thing I’d like to say, sir. And I think it will change your mind. Blake’s mom raised him to be an outstanding person. She did this with Blake’s dad because they were raised to be generous and polite. My grandpa Ollie there has been teaching me things that I never thought of when I would run away from a home and find myself on the streets.
I know how to trust people to help me if I don’t get smart with them. My aunts there? You couldn’t find yourself a better bunch of women to keep you in line. If you want the truth of it, they scare the snot out of me. But they sure can pick a body up and shake it until its better. And boy oh boy, can they hug you. It’s like they’re squeezing the love right smack dab into your heart. Blake’s brothers are big men but as nice as can be, and they showed me that loving a woman, someone that you want to spend your whole entire life with, doesn’t mean you knock them around or take them to task for stupid stuff. They don’t any of them do any kind of drugs. They don’t drink, nor do they act all snobbish when they sure do have all the money in the world. I have never had such a Christmas as the one I just had, and I’m not even counting the presents I got. There was more than enough food for me and Joey to eat. Meat too. And you know what Auntie Bea did? She put us a plate full of stuff on the lower shelves of the fridge so that anytime me or Joey wanted, we could go there and eat until we busted.” Bennett looked at Blake as he continued. “It’s nothing to do with gifts or having a warm bed to sleep in.
Not even a hot shower whenever we want. Being with Blake is like having the best family in the world and knowing, just knowing deep in your heart that you were meant to be with him. He might be a single man like you said. But he sure does love a body like he’s got more than enough for ten kids just like me and Joey.” When Bennett came back to stand with him, Blake kneeled down and hugged him. Joey hugged him as well until they were all three crying. Whatever happened today, Blake knew that no one could have said it better than Bennett did. Love was doing this, and he loved them both very much. Eve took both boys out of the courtroom when the judge told her to. Even if he didn’t get to adopt the boys, Blake knew that he’d try his very best to be in their lives. The judge asked him what he’d do with them if his mate came along. This line of questioning was pissing him off. And he was sick of the name-calling as well. “Do with them, Your Honor? Why the same thing that I’m doing now. If I have a mate out there, she’ll have to be happy with a ready-made family. To me, having them as my sons is no different than if I had married before and had them.” The judge said that they were miscreants and not meant to be with people like him. “I disagree with you, sir. And please don’t call them that again.
They’re my sons forever. It matters little to me or to my family if they’re blood or not. It also doesn’t matter to any of us that one of them is a bear shifter, the other a human. They’re just young men that have had a hard start to their lives, and I’m going to make them better to the best of my ability. You know my family, sir. You’ve known them longer than I have. Do you think that any one of them, including the spouses of my brothers, would let me be remiss in raising them to be men of honor?” “You think you’re a man of worth, Blake? A man with means? What will you do if—or I should say when—they become the environment that they were born to? Will you buy them out of it because you can?” It didn’t seem like a fair question to him, so he only looked at Dylan. When she cleared her throat and started forward, Judge Holloway stopped her. “If you’re thinking that you can scare me into agreeing to this, then you might as well get back in your seat, Mrs. Whitfield. I’ve seen too many kids come through here, getting with families as good as yours and still ending up on the street. Or, and this happens all the time, they’re going to murder the family in the middle of the night then take all their worldly goods from them. I’m not going to allow this to continue. Every time I see a child like those two coming in my courtroom with a family, I’m going to stop it. It’s my duty to make sure that they stay in the rathole that they came from.” “Rathole? Well, I guess it sucks to be you then.” She turned to the bailiff at the door and nodded her head. Turning back to the judge, she started forward again. “I’m afraid that I’m going to have to ask you to step down, sir. You’re not fit to be dealing with anything, especially the adoption of children. I have an order here from the law board that states that I have jurisdiction in this courtroom. Some of the things you’ve been saying are not within the boundaries of your job.”
“Who the hell do you think you are, coming into my courtroom and saying these things to me? You’re not going to do a damned thing to me.” He picked up his gavel and slammed it down hard several times on his desk. Dylan laid some paperwork in his dais. “You think to bring me down because you don’t agree with my methods? Let me show you how I feel about your fucking paperwork.” Dad started to clear the others out. But when the judge pulled up his robe, Dad and the rest of them paused as they were leaving. Judge Holloway was naked beneath it. Pulling out his penis, he began to piss all over his dais and the files and paperwork there. “Do you see this? This will let you know that I’m in charge here.” When he reached under his dais, he started waving a gun around. A shot was fired from the back of the courtroom. The gun in the judge’s hand went off as he was falling backward. Evan ran to see to the judge when Blake realized that he was in pain. “Ivy, come here quick.” He saw his dad’s face in front of him, but Blake was having a hard time saying anything. His dad told him to hush up.
“That fucker shot my boy. Help him. I beg of you.” “Dad? What will Mom say?” There were more voices around him. He was sure that he wasn’t going to die. He was, after all, an immortal. But everything going on seemed to tell him otherwise. Blake looked at the face in front of him but had no idea who it was. “I don’t want to die. I just got sons.” “You’re not going to die; do you hear me, Blake Anderson Whitfield? I will beat your bottom if you do.” Blake struggled to tell his mom that Dad had cursed. “I heard him. And I think that’s a good name for that man who did this to you. Why, if I had a gun, I’d go up there and shoot his wiener off him, then make him eat it.” “Eve, it sort of loses its power when you don’t use the right terms.” Ivy, at least he thought it was her, laughed. “This is what you have to say to make it stick. If I had a gun, I’d shoot that fucker’s dick off and shove it up his fucking ass. See? Doesn’t that make you know that I’m serious when I say that?” “Ivy, honey, please don’t teach Eve how to curse.” Dylan this time as Blake was fuzzing out. “She’s so much more fun when she doesn’t use the right words. She can still make her—” Whatever was said next, he didn’t hear it. Blackness seemed to have swallowed him up, and that was all there was to it.