The explosion on the school bus had affected everyone in the town one way or another, including the Stantons. Bryn had been driving the bus when the bomb had detonated. Injured herself, she was the only one to go back into the flames to help rescue the few injured and retrieve the dead. She died a few days later from her injuries.
Sidney Daniels, Bryn’s best friend, flew into town to see Bryn’s father, Les. She wanted him to know about a lot of things, but also that she and Bryn had been conducting an investigation before all this happened. Sidney was sure Bryn was the target. Now she had people following her too.
When Wyatt Stanton went to the airport to pick up Sidney, he wasn’t prepared for the woman to wrap her body around him and plant the most intoxicating kiss on his lips that he’d ever had. She had done it as a diversion to shake the guy trailing her, but Wyatt couldn’t think of a better way to discover his mate.
Sidney wasn’t as impressed. She was here to shake things up, and the guy better get on board, or she was going knock some sense into him.
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Dane had no idea who she was. She’d been shot and couldn’t even remember who she was hiding from. All she did know was she needed help, and when Julian Stanton found her, he took her to his family.
Brayden Stanton was just tired of everything. It was time to leave Africa and go home to family. He called his dad to tell him that he was fed up with the job and he was on his way home, and he was bringing a fiancée with him. She wasn’t his mate, but he was going to make it work. He realized his mistake the moment he proposed.
Danger comes at every turn. The women in Brayden’s life are surrounded with it. Both are lethal, but one has Braden’s heart from the beginning. The question is, can the family survive it?
Being a country lawyer was something Christian Stanton had always wanted to do. Taking a client he really didn’t want to represent was not what he had in mind.
Allie had been hired to teach the Stanton men hand to hand self-defense. She loved her job and was quite good at it. She knew about shifters, but had never really worked with them before. And when the big cat shifted into a very naked man proclaiming to be her mate, Allie wanted nothing to do with him.
When it came to Allie, Christian was in big trouble. She was no pushover and the sooner he figured that out the better off he’d be….
Julian Stanton was eating breakfast and rethinking his life as a PI when a stranger walked into the diner looking for Tess O’Rourke. Julian felt the hackles rise on his neck. He wanted to take his gun out and blow this guy’s head off for no apparent reason other than he didn’t like him. He’d never had an instant dislike for a person before. He didn’t know who Tess was, but he was going to make sure this stranger didn’t find her.
Tess was at her wit’s end. Dexter had once been her best friend, now she couldn’t get far enough away from him. He was everywhere, attacking her at every corner, emptying her bank account, and now he was after her baby daughter, Ruby. Only the Lord knew what he’d do to the baby if he got his hands on her.
Sent by his parents to help, Julian was to be Tess’s escort to the family home for dinner. The hotel was no longer safe since Dexter had found her there too. When she opened the door, she shoved the most precious squalling baby girl into his arms that Julian had ever seen. And when the woman walked by him, her scent hit him like a brick.
The job went from a favor to personal in the blink of an eye, and Julian would protect the girls in his life with his own if necessary.
Hailey Whitehead was on the trip back home and everything was going as planned until a brief stop for lunch changed everything. The guy came into the diner waiving a gun and shouting orders and Hailey shot him.
Hailey knew what would come next, so when the cops arrived, she was on her knees with her pistol dangling from one finger and her permit to carry in the other hand. What she hadn’t counted on was an overzealous cop cuffing her too tight and leaving her on her own for far too long. By the time Jules Stanton discovered her predicament, she had nearly bled out.
Wyatt had performed the surgery on her wrist and he was worried that she would lose the use of her hand. He asked Dane to help her out with a few drops of her blood, but that didn’t go as planned either. Haylie had an unexpected reaction to Dane’s blood, and when she woke up, not only was she healed, she was no longer entirely human.
She was having the worst week of her life, and the Stantons “helping” her was only making things worse. She just wanted them to leave her alone. Now Colton, another Stanton, was telling her that she was his mate? The last thing she needed was a man ordering her around. Not no, but hell no!
Rachel Spencer, Ray to those that knew her, was barely hanging on. She had called for help, but her father had nearly killed her before help had arrived. Unless Hailey could help her, with the magic given to her by Dane, Ray’s prognosis for a normal life wasn’t good. Levi Stanton had been talking to his sister-in-law, Hailey, through their link. She had told him all about Ray and that Ray might be his mate, or Wyatt’s. Levi hoped she was, he had known Ray’s grandmother and loved the woman, but he was also terrified to find out. It was the fear of the unknown.Levi was happy to find out that Ray was indeed his mate, but Ray’s decision to get help from Hailey would be Ray’s alone. Hailey, however, was afraid her blood wasn’t strong enough to help Ray, so Dane stepped in. Ray would need all the strength she could get to face her Aunt Caroline.Caroline Spencer was on her way to town. No one told that woman no and lived to tell about it. And that was exactly what Ray was going to tell her too. There was no way on this earth that Ray was handing her little brother, David, over to that tyrant. She’d die before she let that happen.
The Stanton Pack
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Les watched the people go up to the closed casket and put their hand on it. She wasn’t in the box. His Bryn had been used up, to help other people in need. Thinking of his youngest child, he tried to tell himself that he’d done right by her, done what she’d wanted, but all he could think about was that she was gone from his life. Walker, his son, sat down beside him. Les wanted to tell him to leave him alone for a while, but he wouldn’t. The service was about to begin. “Dad, when this is over, I’d like to talk to you.” Nodding, Les was startled when both Addie and Kitty sat down on his other side. It was all he could do not to burst into tears. His family was there. Bryn had died five days ago. The accident, or whatever it was that had taken her life over two weeks ago, was still being investigated. Les wanted answers, and he wanted them yesterday. There were a great many questions he had too. But the ones he needed answers for were, who had put the explosive device on her bus? Who was the little girl that had been the target of the explosion? Why had she been targeted in such a way?
Mostly, however, he wanted to know why someone would have made his daughter go back into the burning bus to bring out the ones that had passed away, a decision that he was going to get to the bottom of. Because it was what had caused her death. The service was short, just the way that his family had requested. No one here really knew his daughter, nor did they have a lot of knowledge about his other children. They were headed to the cemetery when he realized that his phone had a message on it. Listening to it on the way, he wasn’t the least bit surprised to hear from his ex-wife, Meadow. “I suppose you think that I’m happy with you pulling the plug on my baby girl. Well, in the event you haven’t gotten it, I’m not. And I’m taking you to court over it. It wasn’t up to you to do a fucking thing to my child. Did the others know? Or did they only find out by reading the paper as I had to do? You fucking bastard. I—” He looked over at his other children, who had insisted that he allow them to hear it as well. “I guess she ran out of time,” Les observed. Walker snickered, and his wife smacked him soundly on his chest. “I’ll talk to her later. And I did try and locate her. I want you to know that.” “All of us did, as well.” Addi showed him her phone. “I tried to call her even before we left the hotel this morning. Walker and I didn’t even have the right number. Dane gave us what she’d been able to find out from her last known address.” Arriving at the cemetery, Les said they’d talk about it later. He felt his eyes fill with tears as he made his way to the little tent where the casket was now sitting. Bryn had only been twenty-six years old, and now she was gone. She’d been working as a bus driver for privileged children to take them to and from school. Bryn had to pick them up in a well-equipped limo-like bus that even had bulletproof glass all around them.
There was air conditioning for them, as well as heat. Nothing like the buses that he had ridden to school when he’d been younger. The butler for one of the students had given it to the child in an envelope, or, and this was what Dane thought, someone had put a bomb on the bus. Dane told him that she was doing some research on it now and would have answers soon. Les had never known anyone with the sort of connections that she seemed to have. While he knew that his daughter’s organs had been donated to others and that her body had been cremated, he needed the casket, an empty one, to prove to himself that this was for her. He had no idea why that helped him because it was an illusion, but as he sat there, he thought about his little girl. When she was a child, he’d been so proud of her knack for figuring things out. Bryn had been smart, sociable, as well as a caring person. When he’d gone a little crazy—he knew that now—he’d sent them all away, including her, so that they’d be safe. Les didn’t remember now what he’d been keeping them safe from. It had taken her getting hurt, then dying, for him to see what a fool he’d been. His phone vibrated in his pocket, but he didn’t bother pulling it out to have a look. Whoever it was, he didn’t have any reason to speak to them now.
He looked at the people around the gravesite and wondered, not for the first time, why he’d broken connections with Denny Stanton. Denny had been his best friend, not just when they were children, but as adults too. When his children had been born, it had been Denny that had brought them into the world. He and his wife Lucy had been there for Les for a long time. Then he’d gotten a burr up his ass, and had broken ties with just about everyone, including his children. Les didn’t want to blame Meadow for his paranoia, but the more he thought about her, the more he realized that she’d done this to him. She’d had him afraid to drive his car, leave the house, or even to open an envelope. Meadow had told him of things that she’d heard here and there. Things that her hairdresser had told her, a man who did hair for the most influential people around—including mobsters. It had all been a lie. “I’ve looked over records as far back as when Walker was born. Your wife had left a trail of men all over the place. I’m assuming that was why you divorced her.” Les told Dane that he’d married her because she’d been pregnant with Walker.
“Nah, she wasn’t pregnant with anyone’s child at the time you married her. She was just coming from a relationship with a mobster by the name of Wendel Kelly. Kelly kicked her to the curb when he found her blowing one of his men for a ride to another lover’s home. Meadow was playing a lot of men back then.” “But I’m the one that married her. Are any of the children mine?” Dane shook her head. “I don’t know why that never occurred to me before this. Not even Walker, then.” “No. I’m sorry for that. And I can find out who their fathers are if you want, but I don’t think it will mean a hell of a lot at the end of the day, do you?” He shook his head at her. “Also, you might not want to know this, but Bryn knew it. She’d had a DNA test done of herself sometime after she got out of high school. I don’t know how she got the tests done for the others, but she had records in her apartment. She has a great deal of information on you, but mostly her mother.
Bryn would have worked well in a police department. She was that good.” “Thank you.” Dane handed him a few things that she’d taken out of Bryn’s apartment. There wasn’t much in the way of personal things—a few pictures, not even a computer. But there had been notebooks about things that she’d discovered. He wondered if anything that she’d dug up on her mother would have been bad enough to have had Meadow turn against her. Les asked Dane. “Nothing that I could find as yet. There are a couple of more places that I have to look. Your daughter had two safety deposit boxes that I’m getting ready to go through, and a friend of hers, a Sidney Daniels, has a few things that belonged to her.” Les asked if she was going to see Sidney. “She’s coming here tomorrow. It was the soonest that she could get away. She and Bryn were best friends, she told me. And she wants to talk to you. Before you ask, no, she’s not holding a grudge against you or anything.” “Da?” He looked at Walker and realized that the service was over. “Are you all right? You look like you’re exhausted. I know you’re not eating enough.” “I’m all right. It’s just more than I thought that I’d be doing for one of my children.” When he stood up, he nearly fell back on his ass, but someone behind him caught him. It was Wyatt. The man had been helpful to him for the last few days. “Thank you.” “Your son is right. You do look a little more than exhausted. And I’ve told you that you have to eat more than a half of a bagel. Let’s go to my parents’ house, and I’ll check you out. You need to take care of yourself, Mr. Mackenzie.”
Nodding at the young man, he was helped to the car. “Also, I’m going to have you go into the hospital for a couple of days to have you checked out. You need to take better care of yourself.” For what, he wanted to ask him, but Walker came over and helped him to the car as well. Leaning a little more on Wyatt, Les let them take him to the car. It was over. His daughter was well and truly gone. Les cried all the way back to the house, where there was going to be a reception. He had no idea what people would say to him, nor did he have a clue what he should say to them when they told him that they were sorry. Les was sorry too. Sorry for a great many things that they had no idea about. He’d thought of himself as a good father. He and Meadow had had some fights. Well, that was an understatement—they’d had some doozies. But he’d never allowed the kids to be a part of their fights. Now that he thought back on things, he thought for sure they’d heard a great deal more than he’d meant for them to. There were a great many people at the house when they pulled in, so many that he found himself shying away from it. Wyatt must have seen how nervous he was and took him to the back of the home to where Denny had a small practice. Once he was in the room with a gown on, Les felt every ache he’d ever had. “I’m going to give you a little something to help you relax. Your blood pressure is a little higher than I’d like it to be. You just lay back, and I’ll give this to you. If you feel like you need to fall asleep, do it, Mr. Mackenzie. You’re overwrought and too stressed out.” The pinch to his arm wasn’t that bad, but almost as soon as Wyatt rubbed the place again, he could feel the drugs moving over his body.
“Let go and allow yourself to rest. You need that more than anything.” Drifting off, Les saw his daughter there, her face as beautiful as he remembered her as a child. Telling her that he loved her so very much and that he was sorry, he let the drugs to what he needed them to do—close out the hurt that he felt right now. ~*~ Wyatt examined Les. He was in good shape considering what he’d been through in the last few days. Sending off the bloodwork by courier, he sat down at the computer to contemplate his own life right now. Wyatt wasn’t thrilled with anything going on at the moment. He loved being a doctor, just not all the things that went with it. Wyatt had wanted to be a doctor all his life, ever since he saw his father save a child’s life by simply knowing what to do when it was time. Wyatt thought his dad had been god-like to him since then, and now too. He supposed now he should just go ahead and get out of the practice he was in. It would cost him, Wyatt knew that, but right now, he thought that paying a large fee would be so much better than him hating to go to work so much that he made life-threatening mistakes. Wyatt wouldn’t give up his privileges at the hospitals across the state, and since he helped out with the police department on occasion, he was able to help out the Feds too when they needed it. Not sure what he wanted to do from now on, he figured that for the time being, he could simply be called in as a forensic doctor, what he’d mostly been doing for the last few months. His phone dinged that he had a message. It took him a few moments to realize that it wasn’t his phone, but Les’s.
Picking it up, he looked at the message and decided that he’d help the other man out. Sidney Daniels said that she was at the airport now. Telling his parents where he was going, Dad asked if he could go with him. Not having any reason to tell him no, he told him they’d get lunch with her too if she was ready to eat. He and Dad were just pulling into the parking lot at the airport when he got a second call from the young woman. I’m in deep shit here. Not really, but I don’t want to have to go to jail the first time I’m in Ohio. There is this pervert that won’t leave me alone. Can I use you for a minute? Sort of as my sugar daddy so he’ll back the fuck off before I have to kill him. Dad laughed as he read him what the message said. “I’m guessing we should tell her who is coming to get her. That way, she can let us be the knights in shining armor for her.” “You could be her sugar daddy if you want,” Dad growled, and Wyatt laughed. “I’m sure for a damsel in distress, Mom wouldn’t mind.” The camera went off, and he asked Dad what he was doing. “I’m sending her a picture of us both, and telling her that you’d be more than happy to be whatever she needs. Also, I’m telling her that we’ll meet her in the terminal. That way, if this pervert tries anything while we’re around, we can just take care of him.”
“Take care of him, how, Dad?” He just glared at him. “I don’t know what you want me to think. Here lately, you and Mom have been a little out there. Just yesterday, Mom told me that she’d thought about going to a salon and getting a wax job. That is not a conversation I ever want to have with either of you again.” “She told me that she’s not going to be holding back anymore. I blame the other girls. Not that I don’t enjoy this new her, but she does scare me a bit now and again. What did you tell her about the wax job?” Wyatt just got out of the car. He could hear his dad’s laughter all the way inside the building. As he had no idea what the woman looked like, he just sat down on one of the many chairs in the terminal. There were all kinds of people coming in and out of the place. He’d never seen the place this busy before—not on a Thursday, anyway. Dad came and sat beside him, and they both stood up when a younger woman came toward them. Christ, he thought, she was going to break the floor the way she was stomping down the hallway toward them. Before he could put out his hand to tell her who they were, the woman leaped up into his arms and wrapped her legs around his body. “I’m so sorry.” Then she kissed him. Wyatt didn’t have time to think about what she was doing, her body wrapped around his, her mouth doing incredible things to his. Putting his arms around her, bringing her tighter to him, Wyatt gave as good as he got from her.
Christ, he thought, this was more than he could have hoped for in picking someone up from the airport. It wasn’t until someone jerked his arms from around her that he remembered where they were. “Who the fuck are you?” Wyatt couldn’t think beyond the woman in his arms and how much he wanted to find them a dark place and finish what they’d started. The man, he supposed he was the pervert, asked him again who he was. “That there is my son, Wyatt, and his fiancée.” The man said that wasn’t right. When Sidney slid down his body, Wyatt couldn’t have held back the moan for all the money in the world. “Son? You want to deal with this man, or do you want me to?” Wyatt looked at Sidney. She was more than beautiful; she was adorable as well. Her hair was done up in braids on either side of her head. Freckles danced over her nose and cheeks like someone had painted them there. And she had the reddest hair he’d ever seen on anyone. Dad said his name a second time, and he had to drag his eyes away from Sidney. It hit him then that she was his mate. Tongue-tied and out of sorts, he looked at his dad. “She’s her. I mean, it’s her, Dad. My mate.” Sidney pulled away from him. When he saw that the man was actually pulling her from him, Wyatt grabbed the man’s hand just above his wrist and squeezed as hard as he could without breaking anything. “You would live a good deal longer if you release her on your own. Otherwise, I will kill you right here where you stand. Unhand her. Now.”
The man hesitated, just enough that Wyatt felt his bones snap under his pressure. When he jerked back, Wyatt started to pull Sidney behind him but figured he’d live a good deal longer if he let her handle this if she wanted to. It was then that Dane contacted him. The man isn’t just a pervert, but he’s after Sidney. Get away from there before his backups show up. I’ll explain when you get here. He asked her if they’d be safe going to their house. As safe as a brand-new box of condoms. By the way, congratulations on finding your mate. You’re going to have your hands full with this one. “Dad, we should be going.” Dad nodded but stared at the man. “Dad? We have to go now. This is not going to be settled here.” As they were walking to the front doors, he stopped when he realized that Sidney needed her bags. Telling her to go with his dad, Wyatt told her where he was going. She grabbed his arm and dragged him along with her.
“I don’t have anything but this carry-on.” She looked at him, then at the front door. “I haven’t any idea what is going on right now, but a woman by the name of Dane just told me to get you out of this place before you kill someone. Is that going to be an option with you all the time? Because if it is, then you’re going to piss me off.” “You’re my mate, and that jackass hurt you.” Sidney told him she was a big girl and could take care of herself. “I know that—I guess you can. But when he touched you, all I could think about was that he was going to hurt you.” It occurred to him when they got into the car that he wasn’t in any shape to drive. Dad took the driver’s seat when he asked him to, and they were headed home. Which home, he had no idea. But it did give him a chance to think about Sidney and her being his mate. Since he was in the back seat, she turned to glare at him. Wyatt had no idea why, but he thought that she was cuter more than she was mean looking. When he smiled at her, she doubled up her fist and told him to behave. “Look here, buster. I don’t have time for you to be going all apeshit with me or people around me. You tell me what she meant when Dane said that you might kill that man.” He told her what Dane had told him.
“And this Dane person—who is she, and how the fuck was she able to talk to me without touching me? I’m not stupid either. And you’d better never treat me that way.” “I don’t doubt that you’re very intelligent. You got yourself out of a situation, or you tried to do so by jumping into my arms. However, Dane told me that this man, whoever he is, was after you. I’m assuming to get you alone.” Sidney nodded. “He won’t. Just so you know. Dane also said that we needed to leave the airport before he brought in reinforcements. I’m assuming that you’re someone that he knows about to know to bring in reinforcements. Correct?” “Not usually. But after Bryn was murdered, I did some more digging into some of the things that she and I would talk about. Mostly it was her job and how much she hated it. We talked about the people that she worked for as well. Not the company that she drove for, but the parents of the kids on the bus. I also found out that the butler, Abram Maiden, who brought his charge Porsche Humphrey out the envelope, is dead as well.
His body was found a few hours after the explosion.” “They’re connected.” She looked at him with the oddest look on her face. “What did I do now? Not that I don’t think you’re absolutely the cutest thing I’ve ever seen when you’re all befuddled, but I would like to get to know your looks a little better before you hurt me.” “You believed me.” Wyatt asked her why she’d think that he wouldn’t. “I don’t know. I guess I just assumed because you’re some sort of shifter that you’d be all pissed off because I knew more than you do.” “I’m a cougar. All my family is. And I’m sure there are a great many things that you know more about than I do. Same as me knowing a bit more than you when it comes to healing people. We’re a team, not a competition.” She didn’t look convinced. “Sidney, you seemed to be okay with the fact that I’m your mate. Why is that?” “I felt something too. I’m not human, not wholly anyway. My grandda is a tiger. My grandma was a bear. Don’t ask me how that worked for them, but it did. My parents were both humans as far as anyone knew. I didn’t know them at all. I lived with my grandparents when they were killed. I was four.” Wyatt told her he was sorry. “Thanks. But anyway, I can shift, but I rarely do. It’s difficult for me to hold onto a shape. I can be a bear or tiger when I do it, but not for very long. Also, I have a freaky ability to be able to sort of blend into things around me.” When she disappeared, Dad nearly put them in a ditch. When Sidney came back to them, laughing and telling Dad she was sorry, Wyatt had a sudden thought. He wondered if she was being hunted for that ability alone, or did it really have to do with Bryn? “Wyatt, I just spoke with your mom. She said for us to come there, that the rest of the family is waiting to meet Sidney.”
Wyatt asked Sidney if she was all right with that. When she said yes, Dad nodded at her. “We’re having a light lunch, then we’re going to have a big dinner. I’m supposed to ask you what, if anything, you’d like to have for dinner.” “I’m starved. So long as there is meat in the meal, I’m all for it. Does this mean that Bryn’s family is going to be there as well?” Dad said that they were. Would that be all right? “Yes, of course. I have a few things for her father. Information that he might find helpful in dealing with Meadow. By the way, no one should trust her, not even if she hands you a bottle of supposedly unopened water. She’s figured out a way to taint it somehow. Meadow is a person that should have been put to death a very long time ago.” Wyatt didn’t even question her about that information. He knew, deep in his heart, that this woman would never say anything that she’d not checked out several times. Wondering how she and the rest of the women in the family would get along, he had a thought that it wouldn’t matter at all to Sidney if they liked her or not. She wasn’t going to change a bit to suit anyone but herself. Wyatt loved her for that. He also knew that he loved her more than he could have ever imagined loving anyone.