Sasha Harvard had returned to the small town in Ohio because Hailey Riddle, a ghost, had led her there. Sasha had been speaking to the dead for as long as she could remember. In working with the police, Sasha had been in the field, helping to look for Melinda’s spirit when Melinda Havard had found her. Melinda told her that they were sisters, and the man that had killed her thought that she was Sasha. Melinda had done the best she could to deliver the child she was carrying before she succumbed to her wounds. The child was marked like Sasha, and the dead would find her when she was older. Melinda wanted Sasha to raise her child, and she warned Sasha that the man who had killed her would come after both her and the child because of what they could do. Sasha pulled out the business card of Sawyer Bishop, the officer in charge on the field, and told him that she’d like to meet him at his house and to send someone to pick her up.
Chandler Bishop knocked on Sasha’s door to pick her up. He heard a scuffle inside and broke down the door. A man was standing over Sasha with a baseball bat, and she had been beaten. When Chandler yelled at the man, he just disappeared. Sasha was shocked that he’d seen the man. Chandler thought the man was a vampire, Sasha told him the man was dead.
Chandler had found his mate and could see the dead now too apparently. And the little girl, Pip, her niece, would be theirs as well. A readymade family and he couldn’t be happier. But would he and his tiger be able to keep them safe from both the living and the dead?
the living and the dead?
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Raven Addington was happy with her life the way it was. She and her daughter, Molly, were doing just fine on their own, despite what her mother had to say about it. Merriam, Raven’s mother, never had anything nice to say about anything, so why should now be any different.
Sawyer Bishop had turned in his notice at the police force. No matter how bad he needed the money, he wasn’t about to let a hot-headed partner make him a mark for an early grave. His parents needed his help on the farm, so he was happy to leave the force.
Sawyer was supposed to be on desk duty, but they were shorthanded, so he took the call that came in from the 911 dispatch. It would be his last, and then he would be a poor but free man.
When Sawyer arrived on the scene, it was bad. The poor woman had been beaten until she was unrecognizable and barely breathing. Although he didn’t know her personally, he knew Raven Addington was extremely wealthy, and that bothered him more than he cared to admit. Being a Bengal tiger, he knew from her scent that she was his mate. Her station in life was so far above his, he didn’t think it was going to work. But when she coded in the hospital, he had to make a quick decision and hope it wouldn’t come back to bite him in the ass later.
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Sasha got back to her rental and sat down at the table. The dead woman knew her. The place was furnished, thankfully, so she didn’t have to worry about anything other than food. The dead woman in the field knew her. Sasha would have to make dinner soon. Looking around the kitchen area, she wondered how she’d gotten home. Her mind wouldn’t be still long enough for her to focus on one thing for more than a second or two. Laying her head down on the table, she thought about the things that the woman, Melinda Harvard, had told her. Not just that, she needed to be found—they knew where she was—but about not just her death, but the baby too. Also, she was her sister, she’d told her. Sasha didn’t know what to think about her saying that. As far as she knew, she had just the one sister, and she didn’t look like Melinda at all. She didn’t even act like her. While Pearl still lived at home, taking care of their mom, she’d never been as thin as she wanted to be. Pearl had weighed close to four hundred pounds the last time she’d seen her, over three years ago now. Sasha, too, had always had to fight with her weight. But she wasn’t obese, or anything like her sister was. Sasha made sure that she kept up with her exercise program. And when she wasn’t able to run or something like that, she’d go to the gym. Melinda had been thin, but it seemed more like she was just that way, rather than she’d had to work at it. Sasha had no idea why that mattered, but she was trying to think of things that would make what the woman had told her true. Which, Sasha realized, was more than likely just that. Just as true as Sasha being able to talk to ghosts. In thinking of her sister, she thought of her mom. Her mother was a liar and a thief.
She scammed people when she could, even if there was no reason for her to do so. Sasha also knew that her mom could get up and around as well as Sasha could. Being confined to a wheelchair, as she told everyone, was a bald-faced lie, like most of the things that spewed from her mother’s lips—like her name. Her mom had been calling herself Katie since Sasha had been a child. Her real name was Sally, but she had always liked the name Katie and decided that it made her sound younger. Sasha had never understood her mother—even less, her brother and sister. Her dad was the only one that not only believed in her but gave her shelter when talking to the dead got to be too much. With her parents divorced since she’d been five, it was easier to stay away from Katie when she got it into her head that Sasha needed to be doing more for her. Sasha got up to make herself a cup of tea, her mind still battling with the things she’d been told. The brewing of the tea, the putting in the sugar and lemon, gave her something else to think about, even if momentarily. As soon as she sat down, Sasha thought of Melinda. She’d gone to the body to see if she could find out who had killed the woman and left a newborn behind. Sasha liked the big ex-cop who had been there and didn’t mind helping him out when he’d ask.
Sasha knew something was off almost before she got to the body. The ghost was staring at her with a huge smile. “There you are.” Sasha told her that she didn’t know her. “No, but I do you. You’re my sister. My older sister by five years. Your mother, our mother, gave me away when she figured that people would think her much too old to have another child. Since they knew who she was, they put my name on the birth certificate as well as hers. That way, I was able to find you.” “I have a sister and a brother.” Melinda had told her their names and their birthdates. “That’s correct. Why are you here? I don’t usually get to— Do you know who murdered you?” “I do.” She looked at Sawyer then, and the man that was standing nearby, a cop whose name she couldn’t remember. “It’s not like you think, whatever you’re thinking. I wasn’t killed by any of those that we’re related to. I don’t know why I cannot think of his name, but you don’t know him.” “I don’t usually come to people where they’ve been killed or died. The dead usually seek me out, and I tell someone where they are to be found. This is all new to me.” Melinda said that she’d been given permission to talk to her. “By whom? There are more people out there like me?” “Yes. Very many like you are now. But that is to change. You’ll need to start helping us.” Melinda sat down beside her or made it look like she was sitting. “You’ve been so very helpful to the dead, sister mine. You’ve helped so many of us find peace, and given those that we love more peace in that bodies have been found and put to rest. We cannot thank you enough for that.”
“I didn’t have a choice in the matter. They just started coming to me when I was four. I haven’t any idea why I can even do this shit.” Melinda asked her about the mark that was on the bottom of her left foot. “So? I’ve had that forever. It’s even noted on my baby chart that I have it. What is it other than a birthmark?” “A mark of birth.” Sasha told her that she didn’t know what she meant. “You were hurt in the womb, and that made you so much different than other children being born. Others like you need to be taught how to do what you do naturally. My child, my daughter, has the same marking. The man who murdered me, he thought he was killing you or someone that could talk to ghosts. He wishes us dead so that we will not tell anyone what he’s done. I still don’t know his name, but as I said, you know him.” “Was he going to kill the baby? Your child?” Melinda watched as pictures were taken of her body. When she was flipped to her back, Sasha could see that her belly had been cut open, the child taken from her. “He did this to you?” “No. He only shot me, in my belly there where I’ve cut myself. I did the rest. I could not let her die within me. I needed her to be found, and someone—someone like you— to raise her. To keep her safe.” Sasha told her that she didn’t want a child. “Then she will die as well, I think. He will find her through records.” “Sasha?” She looked at Sawyer when he said her name. “We know that you’re speaking to her. What we don’t know is what’s going on. Can you tell us anything about her murderer? Did he do this to her?”
Sasha told him about how Melinda had delivered her own child. That the man had meant to kill them both after he realized it wasn’t Sasha. That he wanted them both dead. However, she didn’t tell him that they were related. Nor did she mention that she was supposed to take the child to raise as her own. “You will need his help, they told me. The Bishop men are worthy of one, such as yourself. They are well respected on both sides of this sphere.” Sasha asked her who had told her that. “The dead. Those in charge of making sure that the rules of our kind are enforced. That we’re doing nothing to the living, nor are we harming those that helped us be found. There are others out there that do more. You will never have to do what they do. But you will be the one that they go to when they have unsolved business to take care of, such as finding the person or people that killed them. You have been, I guess, promoted.” “Promoted? I don’t want to be promoted, damn it. I want to just do what I do and nothing more.” Melinda started to fade. “I have so many questions. You can’t leave me yet.” “I must, I’m afraid. I have lingered too long on this sphere.” She stood up when Melinda began to fade more. “His first name begins with the letter ‘C’—that is all that I can remember. You must find him before he finds you. He will know when my death is announced, that he killed the wrong person.” Then she was gone. Sasha had come back home in a fog, not letting her mind think of anything but the next step to getting there—get in the car, start the car, and things such as that.
Now here she sat with so much useless information that she didn’t know where to even start. Sitting at the table, stirring her tea until it was cool enough to drink, she got herself a pen and paper and began writing down all the people that she knew whose first name began with the letter C. There was a pitiful number of them, and only a scant few of them even knew what she did for others. Not sure what she was supposed to do now, she picked up her tea and dumped it into the sink. Sasha didn’t even care for the drink, but there was something so calming about making it that she kept the bags around just for the simple pleasure of making it. When her cell phone rang, she picked it up after seeing the face of her mom. Sitting down again, she was ready for the battle that would ensue. Deciding not to talk about what she’d discovered today, she made sure that her mom knew that she was busy upon answering the phone. “I don’t care what you might think you’re doing that makes you too busy to talk to me. Where have you been, Sasha? I’ve been by your apartment several times, and you’re not there. I want to know what you’re up to now.” Sasha laid her head back on the table when she saw that Hailey had returned. “Are you there? It would be just like you to just put the phone down and not speak to me.” “I’m here. I have had a rough morning already, and I don’t want to have to deal with whatever drama you think you might have going on in your life at the moment. Also, how the hell did you go by my house, Mom? I thought that you weren’t to drive. You said you couldn’t walk.” That didn’t sit well with her mom, but she didn’t care.
“Whatever you’ve done, whatever you’ve had done to you, it’s not my concern. You got yourself into whatever mess you’re in, get yourself out of it.” “When did you become so horrid, Sasha? You used to be such a fun-loving little girl. Where did she go?” Not answering her didn’t seem to be an option with her mom today. “Tell me what it is so that I can tell you to get over it and—” “I grew up and figured out that you’re not as young, as nice, or as wonderful as you and your clique thinks you are. You’re a mean, hateful person that thinks revenge is the only way that you can make people pay for whatever shit you’re doing at the moment that goes belly up.” Mom huffed at her. “As I said, I have things going on here, and I need to get to them. Call Pearl or Zack home. They’ll be rooting you on in your misdeeds because they don’t know you the way I do.” Disconnecting the call made her feel better, but not for long. Looking at Hailey when she moved to stand in front of her, Sasha asked her what she needed. The smile that she gave her was watery, with bits of underwater things hanging out. Sasha shivered. “I’ve been found, thanks to you,” Sasha asked her why she was still here then. “I’ve been asked to keep an eye on you. To help you with your new job.” “I don’t remember saying that I’d take it. Besides, if it’s just more of the same, I’ve learned it by myself. I’m sure that I can figure out the rest. Don’t you?” Hailey began to change. Not fade, but to become what she might have looked like before her untimely death. “You’ll be human again?” “No. Not human.
I thought that it would be much easier for you to see me like this, rather than how I looked when they pulled me from the water this afternoon. You did very well with the Bishop person today. He will be an ally for us both. He and his family.” Sasha pointed out that she worked alone and liked it that way. “You have done very well in the past, Sasha, but things needed to change. In that, you were the one that was chosen to help more people. It will be good for us.” “And what about me? How is this going to be better for me? Did anyone think about how much I’ve given up to help the dead? How very little sleep I get when you and the others come to me in the middle of the night and then bug me until you’re found? Did anyone mention that?” She asked Sasha if not being able to sleep would have mattered in the long run. “Yes, it would have mattered. I can’t hold down a job. And the little work that I do get, someone always comes along and screws that up for me too. I’m broke. The last of my money was used to come here. Because you dragged me here by telling me how important it was that I help them find you. I did that.” “You did. Would you like to know why it was so important?” Sasha said that she didn’t care. Hailey just smiled as she spoke again. “Bradley was planning the same demise for the woman that he is living with now. She deceived him by not telling him of her children, of which she has three. They, too, would have been murdered. Her youngest child, Beth, is to become a great attorney someday. Someone that will fight for the dead and their rights. There are none of those now.”
“This is the reason that I don’t want to know shit about those that I have to help.” Sasha paced the room as Hailey waited. “This ‘C’ person. Does he really exist? Is he really going to come after me? And that little baby?” “Yes. He will kill you both if he finds you.” Sasha didn’t care about herself, but it would hurt her if something happened to her…niece, she supposed. “The babe is in good hands now. She is being called Pip. There is no other name for her that we were told. The man that is caring for her, he is as good a man, as is his brother, the cop that you worked with today. You will need them all, especially this man when the man comes for you.” “This is a fucked up nightmare. You know that, don’t you?” Hailey told her how sorry she was. “I’m sorry too. This isn’t your fault. It’s mine, for thinking I could ever have a normal life.” Before she changed her mind about this, even if she’d had a choice, she pulled out the business card that had been given to her by Sawyer. Calling the man to see how she could get help from him, she told him that she’d like to meet him at his house. She figured that was the best way to figure out what the fuck was going to happen to her now. Also, she told him that she’d need a ride to and from his home, please? ~*
~ Raven watched the proceedings of her mother’s pretrial hearing. Not only had she been found to be quite sane, which no one that had met her believed, but they thought that she was competent to stand trial for her crimes. Not that Mother thought she’d done anything wrong, but she had killed her entire family as a child, and that was what they were going to try her for. She had also murdered several people recently in the name of getting things to impress her clique at the club. And she’d kidnapped Raven’s daughter, Molly, and nearly killed her. The people there were listening intently to what was going on. Most of them, Raven had found out, had been taken advantage of in some way. Whether it was financial or physically, Merriam Addington had been worse than any of them had thought. Including her father. Roger, her dad, was getting on with his life now that his wife of thirty years was no longer bullying him around. And Mother had been a bully, too. She didn’t even care if she had to lie or cheat to get him to do what she told him. The thing that bothered the family was that Mother had thought she was the first and only Addington, and that other Addington’s were to use her as a guide on how to act and live. The fact that her only daughter had a child out of wedlock made her feel that Molly wasn’t a real person and that she should have been killed at all costs. Raven had been an adult when she had Molly. The man that she’d been having a fling with had already been married, which Raven hadn’t known about. Then a few weeks after she broke it off with him, he’d been killed, which Raven thought had worked out well for her and Molly. His plan had been to marry her after killing off his current wife, then to kill Raven. After that, he’d be wealthy—her name and money would open doors for him. Mostly to the bars, but they’d be opened up.
“Mrs. Bishop? Would you mind coming forward, please?” Raven stood up and made her way to the dais that the judge was sitting behind. Something must have happened, she supposed, while she’d been thinking because he looked about as stressed as any man that she’d ever seen. “Your mother would like to have a word with you about her living conditions.” Raven glanced at her mother before looking at the judge with a smile. “No. I like her right where she is.” The judge glanced at his name bar to remind her to address him properly, and Raven told Judge Henry that she was sorry. He rubbed his hand over his face to the back of his hair. It looked as if he’d been doing that for some time now. “What is it she thinks I’ll do for her?” “She won’t tell anyone but you. She said that it’s personal. And because of that, she will not answer any of the questions put to her so that we may proceed with this pretrial.” Raven glanced at her mother, then back at the judge again. “I’m begging you, Raven, to do this for us, please. I have a lot to get through today. I don’t want to burden you, but I’ve seen you in action with her, and I think it would maybe set her up nicely if you were to tell her what you wish.” “Will you record it?” He said if she did this, he’d use his own phone to do that. “All right. But this will not be pretty, sir. I’m telling you right now that I don’t like her, and I certainly will not be putting up with her shit.” “Good for you.” Raven walked to her mother just as one of the bailiffs walked to stand by her. He was holding a small device pointed at her mother, and she smiled at her. This was going to be ugly, Raven knew it. “What is it you think you want me to do for you? I want you to think very hard on it, and realize that I’m going to tell you no.”
Merriam told her to keep her voice down. “I will not. You only lower yours when you think it suits whatever it is you’re doing. Otherwise, you shout to the world what you’re talking about. What is it?” “I was told that you are pressing charges against me for trying to take that bastard child from you. Raven, she cannot be an Addington. Don’t you get that? She’s nothing. Not to me. She shouldn’t be to you either. Get rid of all that nasty weight.” Raven started to walk away. “Wait. I want you to have your father stop this divorce. How can I hope to become the next president of the club if I have a divorce hanging over my head? You tell him that I’m going to teach him a lesson if he doesn’t take care of this right now. I’m an Addington, for Christ’s sake, and we do not divorce.” “Apparently, having several dozen abortions is all right, though.” Mother looked around and told her to keep her voice down again. No one needed to know that in here. “Ah, but they do know that. Everyone does. It’s been in the newspaper, and I want you to know that I helped you out with that.” “It’s about time that you did something by me. I’ve never done a thing to you that you didn’t deserve. When are you going to get away from that man you supposedly married?” Raven said that they were still married and were going to have a child. “No. No, you can’t do this to me. I demand that you abort it right now.”
“Here? In this courtroom, right here on the floor? Why Mother, what would people say if I just popped out my child right here?” Mother called her all kinds of names then. Some of them Raven was sure that she was making up. When she called her a slut for what seemed like the millionth time since she’d found out she was having Molly, Raven had enough. “Watch your mouth, Mother. You want something from me, while I want nothing more to do with you.” “You have never been a good child to me, Raven. Never. Not since you were old enough to use that smart mouth of yours.” Raven thanked her. “That is not something you should be proud of, Raven. I swear to you, you are the cruelest and most rotten person there is. I am still your mother, damn it. You contact your father, and you tell him that I want out of here. I do not belong here, and I will not tolerate him leaving me here as if I mean nothing to him and the name Addington.” “You don’t, as a matter of fact. Besides, I don’t know what has you so hyped up about getting home. The house has been sold. Daddy is living with my husband, daughter, and I while he thinks about what he wants to do from now on. One of my wonderful brothers-in-law is going to move in after everything in the place that you breathed on is stripped out. That’s everything in the event you didn’t know.” Mother stood up and slammed her chained hands against the table.
“What? Are you upset about something?” “You tell him I will not allow that. I am going to live there even if I have to kill a lot of people to make it happen. You tell your father that it will be entirely his fault because he drove me to it.” Raven reminded her mother that she was being recorded. She turned to look at the recorder before continuing. “Roger Addington, you will be at that house when I get out of here, or so help me, I will destroy you, both physically and financially, before your next heartbeat.” “Oh, before I forget to tell you. While we’re on the subject of Dad, he’s made it so that you’re not an Addington. He’s stripped you of that name because you were never the name that you changed it from when you married him. Also, and this is really funny to me—you signed a prenup. You’re getting nothing. Not one red cent from Daddy, his estate, or me. Ever.” This time Raven did walk away from her. Mother was still screaming at her to get back to where she was. Raven, ignoring all the insults and nasty things she was being called, barely made it to the bathroom before she threw up. While she knew that it was never going to get better between them, she could be happy that her mother was going to be far away when this was finished. She wanted her not only in prison but in one that was far, far away from her. While in prison, she’d not be able to make calls every day. Mother would be unable to have people message Raven through the courts. It would be better for all of them when she was gone. Prison might even make her a better person. Raven wondered why she’d even bothered to come here today. Hello, my darling. I can feel you’re stressed out again. Should I come there as my cat and rescue you? Sawyer had a way about him that made her feel better with just a simple sentence. I take it that nothing is going as planned at the courthouse today.
Nothing. Worse than that, Mother is holding up the proceedings so that she can yell at me about the divorce and how I’ve ruined the good name of Addington. I shouldn’t have come here. You were right. Sawyer said that he wasn’t so sure that he had been. What do you mean? You think I should have come here and been treated this way? Wow, that’s harsh. No, I didn’t mean that. I meant that—well, you have to admit, you were feeling a little doubtful about your mother and whether what she’d been doing was enough to warrant her being in prison. Did this help? She said that it had solidified it very well that she needed to be put away. That’s as good as any reason to be there, to figure this out on your own. You might have believed me a little that this was going to happen when we spoke about it. But you got to know first-hand that she’s a fucking bitch who isn’t going to change. Did you tell her about the house? I did. I’m so glad that Gunner is buying it from Dad. To be honest with you, every time I think about him living in that huge house, all I can think about is he’ll be sleeping out on the back lawn in a sleeping bag rather than buying himself some nice furniture for it. Sawyer told her that Gunner was actually working with the people in the house. Well, that’s good, I guess. How is he handling being around people? I didn’t say he was there when they were. He comes in after they’re gone, and I guess one of them leaves him a list of stuff that he can do. Gunner told me that he’s enjoying getting his hands dirty in a way that doesn’t involve blood. Freaked me out a little when he said that.
Raven laughed and got up from the floor to clean herself up. There was another reason that I contacted you. How would you like to meet myself and Molly for dinner? I’ll bring your grandma too. We could try out that restaurant that you were reading about, and then get Holly a car. She’s been bugging me to do that for her. She said that she loves bugging you, so don’t think this will be the end of her bothering you about things. She loves you. Sawyer told her that he loved her as well. I’m going to go back to the hotel and take a short nap. Molly is at the packhouse, learning how to use the magic that she got from you. I still can’t believe that she has so much from a few drops of your blood. I’m just glad that it’s not much more than she has now. Being able to search out things that she wants and to bring them to her is nothing that I know how to do. I think she’s a little upset that she can’t shift. She was, Raven told him. Okay—date or not? Yes. I’ll take a nap at the hotel that I’m in, and you guys can meet me there. I do understand that they had to move the trial to a different place, but Columbus isn’t that far away, do you think? He told her how it had a lot more people to choose from for jurors than their town. I suppose. Okay, I’m better now. I’ll go there and see you guys later. I can’t wait for this to be done. Is Daddy all right? He is. I think that he’s having a good time with my dad. They’re working on the rose garden. Dad and he are learning how to drive the tractor and use the attachments. I guess Roger wants to put in a little garden someplace on the land that we have. I told him that would be fine by me. Mom is going to help him with it. She asked him about the peas. Yes, the ground is plowed up, and the rows are set up and ready. Mom is so excited about having peas that she can’t hardly stand it. Seems like a great deal of work for so little return, but then Mom will make it work to where she’ll have bushels of them if I don’t miss my bet. They were still laughing when she exited the bathroom. There were police all around this floor she was on. When one of them spotted her, Raven was escorted to the limo that was out front for her, and he made sure that she was in the hotel before he left.
Whatever happened, because Sawyer said he’d not called anyone to escort her, Raven was glad they were taking care of her. Raven had a feeling that it had to do with her mother. Exhaustion rolled over her in waves as soon as she got off the elevator on her floor. Even before she was able to get the covers pulled back on the bed, she was falling into it and closing her eyes. The baby and the stress were making it difficult for her to function. Raven decided that for her own peace of mind and health, she wasn’t going back to the courthouse.