Lachlan Russell had been rushed into emergency surgery. Her boss’s daughter took exception to Lach, telling her no, and went ballistic, throwing anything and everything she could at Lach until Lach finally collapsed from her injuries. Lach was also pregnant at the time, tricked into being a surrogate to carry her sister’s child.
Harris Marshall, Shep’s wife, was called in on the case. Lach’s boss and daughter were now both in jail, but Lach’s family was another matter—they were worse. Harris would make sure this woman pulled through if she had to kill Lach’s family to see to it. Calling in reinforcements, her brother-in-law, Oakley, was the first to arrive at the hospital.
Oakley was thrilled to have found his mate. As far as he was concerned, Lach was perfect. But her sister and brother-in-law were both insane. Would he and his family be enough to protect her from their madness?
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Harrison Parker had no family and no ties. She was invisible to be traced. Her job with the government was top secret. So secret that she only reported to two people. Now, she was the target and she had to figure out who wanted her dead. Hurt, and laying low, she reached out to the only man she trusted, an old man she had befriended in the cemetery, Sheppard Marshall.
Sheppard Marshall had been grieving the loss of his Millie for the last fifteen years. He would sit by her grave every day. He was an old man of ninety, and he looked forward to the visits he received from the sassy woman, Harrison Parker. Over time he had grown very fond of her, and when he received the message that she needed his help, Sheppard would help her or die trying.
His grandson, Sheppard or Shep, wasn’t letting the old man go alone. If he got hurt, Shep wouldn’t be able to live with himself. Even though the Marshall men were jaguars, that didn’t mean the old man couldn’t get into a situation that got him hurt or possibly killed.
The bullet had gone clear through, but the poison it had been laced with left Harrison with a high fever and near death. Shep didn’t know what this woman was into, but he knew two things—she was dangerous, and she was his mate. What kind of mess had the old man gotten him into now?
Isabella Booth was tired of all the sexist crap handed to her on a daily basis. When her father wouldn’t even consider her as an heir to his lawn care business because she wasn’t a man, and left it to her brother Hunter instead, she had done the next logical thing. She opened her own lawn care business, and it thrived.
Dean Marshall was renovating his family home. As far as the landscaping was concerned, he was told to go big or go home. When Shep invited the owner of the landscaping company to his home for dinner, Dean wanted to be there to see about getting some things done for his place. He didn’t mean for his jaguar to knock the woman to the ground.
Bella was thoroughly pissed when the big cat ruined her jeans and favorite shoes, and when he announced that they were mates, Bella was seeing red. No way, no how, was she having another sexist, overbearing man in her life. Not if she could help it….
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Harris walked the hallway while she waited on someone from the police department to come and give her a hand. The locals had their hands full with this one and were more than happy to let her not only take over but to make sure that things were done correctly. So far, all Harris had been able to figure out was that Allison Gray had hit the cook, Lachlan Russell. It had taken her only a minute after finding a nurse by the name of Dutch Jasper. He and Harris had known each other for a while. A couple of times when she’d been in this very hospital taking care of someone, she’d been able to depend on him to make sure she’d gotten out of the hospital without being seen. Harris didn’t know why she trusted the man, but she did. With her life, as it turned out. “I have copies of all the recordings of the conversation with her boss, a jerk by the name of Lance Gray. He’s currently sitting his pretty butt in jail, right alongside his daughter, Allie.” Harris asked him for a recap of what had gone down. “Her boss was pissy that Lach had his daughter arrested. He told her—point-blank, mind you—that he wasn’t paying any of her bills.
I have the name of the cop that arrested him. Officer Hamilton heard what he said as well.” “Is there anything else?” Dutch told her about the baby Lach was carrying and that it was her sister’s child. “That was very generous of her. Or was it?” “Not from what I’ve heard. They bullied Lach into it. You have to meet them only once to know they’re not the kind of people who tolerate those they think are lower than them. To me, that isn’t a far drop, but then I don’t give two hoots about them.” Harris laughed. “Lach told me right before they took her into surgery that her sister had told her she wasn’t able to carry a baby to term. That’s not right. I went to talk to someone about it, on the sly, and they’re saying that Rita—that’s her sister—didn’t want to have to carry a child, but she really wanted one. They’re paying half of Lach’s medical for her carrying the baby. Half? Like she wanted to carry it. I’m telling you now, Harris, if you were still working, I’d hire you.” She thought about that for the rest of the morning. Dutch was one of the nicest people she had ever encountered on her jobs.
For him to want to make these people gone was very telling. Pacing the long hallway on the surgery floor, Harris thought about everything she’d found out about Lach. All of it good news until she found out about the rest of her family. Her parents were divorced. Frank Russell had taken off about the time Lach had turned four. He’d had enough, apparently, and didn’t care to be around people he just couldn’t make himself love. Harris didn’t know the family as yet, but even hearing about them made her think she didn’t blame him. Frank had also tried to get custody of Lach, but Rebecca, his ex-wife, had hired a shark of an attorney and had won the case. Harris wondered if she’d thought she could make Lach into someone like her and Rita. Apparently, it hadn’t stuck, because Lach was her own woman and didn’t hang around her sister and mother unless necessary.
“Mrs. Marshall? There’s a phone call for you. He said it was urgent.” She nodded and followed the nurse to the front desk. “I think it’s Dutch. He didn’t tell me his name, but I think it’s him.” “Hello?” It was Dutch, and she had to tell him to calm down three times before she was able to get a word out. “Just take a deep breath and let it out slowly. In and out, Dutch, so I can figure out what the fuck is wrong.” “Did you see today’s paper?” She reached for it as it laid on the nurse’s station counter. “Frontpage too. I have to tell you, Harris, I never in all my wildest dreams would have thought someone could do this to one of the sweetest people I know. I love you too, girl, but you’re not sweet. You’re hard.” “Thank you.” She asked him to hold on while she opened the paper. “Mother fuck. How the hell did they get this out so quickly? Not to mention, how did the person putting this in the paper get this printed without all the facts? Or any, from what I’m seeing.” Harris told Dutch she’d talk to him later as she stood there reading the article. It was about Lach and her having to be in the hospital.
It said she’d tried to kill Allie Gray by throwing a hot dinner at her, and when she’d retaliated, Lach had faked an injury in order to get out of going to jail. It went on to say she’d been feeding the entire staff dinners every night instead of the patrons of the restaurant. There were accusations about her stealing money from the cash drawer, taking money from the waitstaff in the form of tips, as well as taking home some of the products that the restaurant had ordered. Taking out her cell phone, Harris called her office. She had three people working on this for her. A lot of shit was going on, and since the locals had turned it over to her, she was free to do whatever was needed. Turned out, when she called her office, she found there were more than the three she had assigned to this, as the things they were finding out were too much for the first men to work on. “I have a man going to the newspaper office as we speak. He’s taking one of the local jurisdictions with him. The article was out before we knew about it. Sorry about that, sir.” She told him it wasn’t his fault, as she’d been blindsided by it as well.
“You should also be aware that we’ve found Frank Russell. He’s remarried. A background on him didn’t show anything other than one parking ticket. How would you like us to work this?” “Call him. Tell him his daughter has been hurt. Don’t give him any details until he asks for them. I’m not keeping them from him, but if he’s broken all contact with them, he might not care.” Agent Gunn told her he could do that. She could hear the pen scratching across the paper. “I want you to do a complete background on Lachlan Russell. I have some personal information, but not much more. I want to know the last time she had a shit; that’s how thorough I want it. Also, on her mother, Rebecca Russell, and her sister and brother-in-law, Rita and Roger Underwood. Make sure you find out what you can about her ability to have children.” “Got it.” He paused a moment. “I know Rita Underwood.” She asked him how. “We were upperclassmen together. I didn’t realize that when I started helping you with this. To say she’s a bitch doesn’t even come close to painting a picture of this woman.
I think she’d murder her own family if she would be able to make some cash off it.” “Do you know Dutch Jasper?” He said he did, but only by name. He was younger than him. “He’s a good friend and ally of Lach. Also, the one that called me. See what you can find out about him, too, while we’re looking. Also, what his debt to income ratio is.” She didn’t have to explain herself to this man, but she told him he’d helped Lach out and had helped Harris a few times as well. Harris just wanted to know if he was being paid off to make the family look bad. But really, she was going to help the nurse out if he needed it. Harris owed the man a great deal. “Sir, did you know what Lachlan means? It means warlike. The Vikings called their land of lakes Lachlan too.” Harris told him she’d not known, but was glad for the information. “I hope this girl is warlike. Having a sister like Rita, she’d need it.” The more she found out about this family, the more she wanted to bundle up Lach and take her home with her. She wasn’t prone to taking adults home with her, but in this, she thought her and the other woman could be tight as in friends. Harris didn’t know why, but she thought this Lach might be more badass than she was. Not by much, though.
When Lach came out of surgery, Harris was able to go and see her. The doctor told her what had happened in the operating room, and the concerns he had about what he’d had to do to remove the large shard of glass from her head. “It was deep and pierced her skull. I could see the damage to her brain—it has a deep cut in it. The brain surgeon with me said she thought that having it cut in her frontal lobe might cause her some memory issues, as well as a change to her personality.” Harris asked the doctor how they’d figure it out. “We’ll have to wait until she’s awake. Which isn’t going to be for a few more hours. I’d like her to remain still for at least that long.” Pulling out her cell phone, Harris looked up what she could about frontal lobe injuries. There was a lot, she could see, that was all speculation about the brain. It would be difficult, she supposed, to have someone test your working brain before you were finished with it. In her field, Harris was sure there were a lot of people out there that didn’t have a brain. Or, in fact, they didn’t use it all that much. She was smiling when she made her way to recovery to sit with Lach for some quiet time. Opening her laptop, she pulled up the information she had been sent from her office.
It was about the recording that had been generated from here, as well as from the restaurant. Allie was going to be in deep shit when this thing went to trial. Having admitted that she wanted to kill the other woman was right there for anyone to hear. Harris looked at the other recording and cringed when she saw the mother and sister. Typical rich women that wouldn’t do a thing for anyone in need, she thought. The fact that the mom was more concerned about her shower and going home told her a great deal. Closing those down, she pulled up the first report. Allison Gray had been in trouble like this before. As she read over the three counts of abuse and battery from the police, Harris had to wonder how she’d even been able to be out and around others.
Her violent nature was one that should have been recognized and monitored before now. Then she got to the records that told the outcome of each of the crimes. Daddy was paying the people off. Charges were brought against his daughter, but after Lance paid the people a great sum of money, Allison was set free. The amounts were staggering too. Two of them were upwards of a million dollars. The last one was nearly two mill. Harris read the reports on what had happened and noticed that with each arrest, Allison was getting more and more violent. Harris did wonder how much he’d pay Lach to shut her up. She also wondered if she’d take it. Hoping she wouldn’t, Harris looked at the woman laying in the bed next to her. She knew from the report that her left arm had been burnt badly. She could see that it had been wrapped up but was seeping. The one at her back had been the worst the doctor had seen on someone. It was about two feet wide and almost that long. The pain while it healed would be horrendous. Harris couldn’t see much of her face. From the top of her head to her nose, just peeking out of the bandage, she could see that there were bloodstains on the gauze. She was being monitored and had several IV’s running to keep her quiet, as the doctor had said.
When a nurse came in to take Lach’s blood pressure, she told Harris what she knew. “They had to remove nineteen pieces of glass from her head. Some of them were so tiny, I was told that they had to be found with a microscope.” She asked about the one that had caused the skull injury. “Doctor Sampson is the best brain surgeon around. She’s a ballbuster, but good at her job. She was telling us the piece that had done the most damage was about an inch wide, and sharp like a razor on the end that hit her. She’s lucky that none of the flying glass hit her in the eye.” “I’m sure she’s just glad to be alive. Did anyone mention the baby?” The nurse told her the OBGyn would be in later to examine her. “But they didn’t say anything about it? I mean, to even tell if the meds might hurt it?” “No.” The nurse came closer to her. “She’ll be lucky to keep the baby once she’s awake. I’ve seen what this sort of stress can do to a mother. Lach is going to be in a great deal of pain when she wakes up. Being with child, she won’t be able to take the good medication that will keep the pain at bay.
I feel sorry for her. And for the unborn child. This will be hard for her to handle on top of being hurt like this.” After the nurse left, Harris watched Lach breathing. Her thoughts were centered on a single thing right now, but executing them might cause more trouble than Lach might want. Harris didn’t want her to lose the child. Even if it weren’t hers, she thought that the pain of that would put her into a deep depression. She’d seen enough of that for several lifetimes and wanted to keep Lach from having that weight on her as well. Harris nodded at her thoughts and put out an all-call to her new family. I need Rodney and the other three unmated Marshalls to come to the hospital for me. I have a woman here that is going to be in a great deal of pain, and I don’t want her to suffer. There is also an unborn child that I’m thinking of. She told them what was going on with the baby, as well as her reasons for asking them to come here. Harris also warned them about her mother and sister’s troubles.
She might well be one of your mates. In fact, I’m hoping she is. You could make her life a great deal better than it is at the present time. Harris smiled when Grandpa spoke first. I’m coming too. If she ain’t one of these knuckleheads’ mate, I might can heal her myself. Poor things. To think that— Hey, is this the girl I was reading about in the paper here? Where she tried to kill off the owner’s daughter? Harris told him she was having that retracted. I don’t blame you. It sure didn’t paint her in a good light for all the things they were saying about her. I’ll be riding up with the others—no point in me sitting here waiting on someone to tell me what’s going on with her. I’m going to drive up. Anyone want to ride with me? The other three and Grandpa said they would ride up with Oakley. Just so you know, I’m not going to be happy if she is my mate. It’s not fair that you get to meet her before I do. What things could you be telling her, I wonder? She’s in a coma right now, medical. They want her to remain stable for as long as she can. Oakley said he was kidding. I know that. I just wanted to give you all a rundown on what we might be dealing with. I’ll keep you updated as I find out more about her. Oh, if you hear about someone being murdered, don’t worry about it. I might have saved you the trouble of meeting your in-laws. They were still laughing when she closed the connection. Harris was glad now that she’d contacted them.
If nothing else, they’d keep her entertained. Pulling out her computer again, she read the other reports that had come in with the first one. This was a family that needed to be beaten, Harris thought. ~*~ Frank made his way up to the fourth floor of the imposing hospital. It wasn’t as if he’d not been in a hospital before, but this one was much larger than he’d thought, even with different buildings attached to one another with complicated walkways and bridges. He finally made it to the correct floor twenty minutes after arriving. Frank made his way to the nurse’s station to ask where he needed to go. “Mr. Russell, my name is Harris Marshall with the FBI.” He took the younger woman’s hand while his mind pinged all over the place about what his ex-wife had done now. “They’re setting your daughter up in a room right now. My family is in there helping. I’ll take you to see your daughter in a moment. If you don’t mind, I have a few questions for you.” “Of course. But if you don’t mind me asking, what has Rebecca done now? Or is it Rita again?” Agent Marshall told him they were still looking into that. “They’re not the brightest tools in the shed if you want my opinion. Not only that, but they think they’re better than anyone. Not most, but anyone they come in contact with. How’s my daughter doing?” “Lach is doing as well as can be expected. She was burnt badly. But that’s nothing to what was done to her brain when a plate was thrown at her. They’re waiting to make any kind of prognosis until she’s in less pain. The medication she’s on is making sure she’s not hurting, but is also not harming the baby.”
“Baby? Lach is pregnant? No one told me— Well, I guess I never expected anyone to call me on that, but it would have been nice.” Agent Marshall told him what she knew. “That’s not true. When I was still living with them, Rita had gotten pregnant three times by the time she was seventeen. She carried one to term without any issues. That one was put up for adoption. I suppose there could have been problems starting after I left there, but I’m not aware of any issues she had.” “I’ve done some research on the family, and you’re right. There are no issues for Rita not to have been able to carry a child. Someone on my team thinks it’s because she doesn’t want to be pregnant.” Frank told the agent he didn’t believe that either. That Rita thrived on having all the attention focused on her. “Could it be that she is trying to hurt her sister in some way?” “I wouldn’t know. I do know Lach wasn’t anything like her sister or mother. I tried to have her come to live with me after the divorce, but Rebecca wouldn’t have it. I think, and this is just me, she thought she could turn her into a person like her and my other daughter. I never thought it would stick. Even as a child, Lach was more boy-like than any boy I knew at her age. And stubborn.” Frank thought about that.
“I guess things could have changed, as I said, but I don’t think it would have been easy on my wife or daughter. Lach is very stubborn.” He was talking with Harris, as he’d been asked to call her when a man came out of the room he thought his daughter was in. After kissing Harris on the mouth, the big man introduced himself to him as her husband. Good lord, he’d never seen a pair so perfectly matched before. Tall and muscled. It made him wish he’d used the gym membership he had more. Shep seemed like a good man. He had a dry wit and was so in love with his wife Frank could almost taste it. Other men came out of the room one at a time, all of them introducing themselves to him as a brother to the one before. Then an older man, who said he was their grandda, Sheppard, introduced himself to him.
This man he thought he could enjoy talking to. “My family here is trying to make sure nothing more happens to your little girl. Harris here, she’s told us what is going on, and who we should be looking out for. I don’t think there is much going on right now, but we got your back.” Frank thanked Sheppard. “You’re welcome. I do want to ask you something before much longer here. Do you believe in shifters? I mean, people having another self?” “My wife was a wolf,” Sheppard told him they were jaguars. “Jaguars are beautiful cats. I’m happy to meet all of you. You must have an enormous food bill to feed all these boys, as you call them. I’d hate to have to feed them all at one time.” “They’re good boys, Mr. Russell. The reason I said anything at all right now is that your little girl is the mate to one of my grandsons.” Frank wasn’t sure how to take that, so he said nothing. “My boys here, any one of them would save her from hurting so badly, as she’s gonna. But Harris here, she wanted them to come along and see if any of them were her mate before we doctored her up with a little of our blood.”
“You’re not going to help her now?” Sheppard told him they couldn’t, but Oakley could. “I don’t understand. How is he going to help her? And what does her being this man’s mate have to do with it?” “Cats are a jealous lot. Wolves too. Had any one of them tried to save her, Oakley would have killed them. He’d not want to, but it’s in his DNA to protect what he would consider his own.” Sheppard asked him if he was understanding. Frank told him to go on. “Oakley, he’s staying with her right now on account of you being here. He wants your permission, you see, to take care that she’s not hurt anymore.” The monitors went off down the hall. They were loud and scary. It occurred to him that they were saying that the room his daughter was in was the one the staff was rushing to. Standing up, he was asked to wait as all the staff gathered in the room. A tall, good looking man came out just as the door was closing. No one said anything for a long time. Then the man he assumed was Oakley came toward him with his hand out. After introductions were made, Frank found himself sizing the younger man up.
Whatever had happened in Lach’s room, it had affected the young man quite badly. “She was awake for about a minute before she said anything. As you can imagine, I was shocked to see her awake when they told us it would be a few more days before they started weaning her off the meds.” Sheppard asked him why the staff was in the room. “She told me to call them. That she thought she was losing the baby.” Frank sat down. He’d not seen his daughter in twenty years and knew he’d missed a great deal. But the child he remembered was now losing her child. It hurt him deeply that she was going through this. Especially, he thought, with so much going on right now in her life. “How about you and me, we go and get us some dinner, Frank?” He started to tell Sheppard no, that he wanted to stay close to see his daughter when Sheppard continued.
“You don’t want to go and see her like you’re looking right now. You’re hurting, I can see that. I am too, and I’ve not met her yet. But a good cup of tea or coffee with a piece of pie might do wonders for you. It’ll also give you time to figure out what to say to her when it’s time to talk.” “I suppose you might be right. I was wondering why the FBI was in on this. Seems like it would be a local thing.” As Sheppard explained it to him, Frank found himself not only going with Sheppard to the cafeteria but also ordering himself two pieces of pie and a cup of coffee. When he sat down with the other man, Harris and her husband joined them. He had a feeling he was going to learn a great deal about his other family. “All right, Frank. How do you want this? Rip the sucker right off, or do you want it in bits and pieces? I’m more of a rip it off sort of teller, but I’ll do what you need.” He said he wasn’t sure what he wanted, as he’d not been around for twenty years. “I’m here because a friend of mine called me in. Dutch Jasper, he’s not only a friend of mine but also your daughter. Do you remember him?” “Yes. I mean, I remember the name and a little about him. Dutch would come over when they were little and hang out with the family when his mom had to work late. My then-wife didn’t like him. I haven’t any idea why, but it didn’t stop him and Lach from being friends. He called you because she’d been hurt?”
Harris told him that was part of it. “Why then? I mean, if you can tell me.” “Have you seen the papers?” He said not since he left home last night. The paper was handed to him. After reading it, he looked at Harris. “None of that is true. Well, some of it is. Lach was burnt, but not how they describe it. We’re having a retraction put out tomorrow. Fact-checking is a biggy for me. Also, we’ve arrested Allison and her father, as well as a med student, for taking pictures and sending them to the father and daughter duo.” Harris told him of the other attempts of murder by Allison, as well as her father buying the victims off. His head was spinning when he thought of all the things going on surrounding this other family. Asking for a moment, Harris didn’t say anything more other than she was sorry. “Don’t be. I’m just thinking how very little I knew before coming here. So this, all this with my daughter being hurt, was over a fake order so Allison could have a steak dinner? What is this world coming to?” Harris said she asked the same question every day. “I bet you do. You more than likely see very little good come out of your job.” “I see the good when I have someone in jail for something. But this, it should never have been allowed to happen. Someone’s head is going to roll for this. Allison is a danger to people and has been for some time. I’m going to make sure justice is served for Lach.” Frank asked about the baby. “When I came down here, the staff was still in the room. Oakley went back in too. He’ll let me know when he knows anything.”
They told him what they knew, which wasn’t a small amount. Harris and her family not only knew what Rita had done to her sister to make her carry her unborn child but also how Rita was making sure she only paid half of what it was costing Lach to do this for her. “The contract I saw wasn’t signed by Lach. There is a signature in the line where she was supposed to sign, but your ex-wife signed it. Then she wrote that Lach wasn’t of sound mind. I find that hard to believe, but that’s what happened. Rita and her husband have been spending money like they’re drinking it, and they’re not planning to pay Lach for any of this. You’ll have to trust me on that one, Frank. I can’t tell you who told me that, but it’s straight from Rita’s mind.” Frank could believe that. Rebecca and Rita both hated when they were told no on something. “I can believe that too. The two of them are like two she-devils fighting over a tiny pea. I don’t think either of them are aware of what sort of shit is going to rain down on them now that I’ve had a look into their lives.” “Explain to me how it is you’re involved. You might say you came here for a friend to make sure my daughter wasn’t screwed, but I think it’s more than that. Something you’re not telling me.” Harris nodded. “Is it bad? Is it something I’m going to regret knowing?” “I doubt that last part. However, I am here for a friend. Once I got here, things changed a great deal, but that is why I came. So I could see that someone wasn’t getting shafted.” He said he still thought there was more. “There is. The fact that this girl tried to kill Lach pisses me off.
Then to find out she could have killed the mate to one of my brothers makes me want to see bloodshed.” “I have a feeling you’re good at making bloodshed anyway.” They all laughed, and Harris patted him on the back. “I want you to know this, Harris—I’m not going to piss you off in any way. I don’t want to be on the receiving end of your wrath.” “Smart man.” She pulled out a gun and laid it on the table. He didn’t think she was showing off but had put it there because, as she said, it was digging into her hip. For whatever reason, Frank didn’t think Harris had to show off. She was that good at what she did.