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.
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?
Wesley Bishop was helping out a friend by letting Emmie stay with him. He knew she wasn’t his mate, but she was good company. Emmie was hiding from her abusive brothers. When she asked Wesley to take her to the bank, she was meeting her best friend Penny and Penny’s grandfather, Joe, to go over their accounts, Wesley readily agreed.
Wesley thought Penny was about the prettiest woman he’d ever seen—feisty too, and when her scent hit him like a freight train, he was the happiest tiger shifter on the planet.
Penny, not so much. Like Emmie, Penny’s family had a way of getting their point across with a heavy fist. Trusting a man wasn’t easy for her.
Wesley was no quitter; he’d convince his new mate to trust him if it was the last thing he did. And keeping her safe was proving to be more difficult by the day.
It would take Hodge time to get used to Gunner’s family. She’d used a little magic to help Raven deliver her twins without any pain. The Bishops were crowding her, wanting answers Hodge wasn’t ready to give. She was a loner, and all these people around her would take some getting used to. Gunner felt the same way and told his family to just go home. His mom wasn’t too happy about that.
To the world, Gunner was retired from his service with the military, but he was too good at his job to just stop. Someone had placed a price on Gunner’s head. He just had to figure out who. They’d come close once, but Hodge had sensed the threat and took care of it. But more attempts were inevitable. Would Hodge be able to intervene the next time?
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Every time Dwayne looked at his brother, he laughed. There was no point in holding back anymore, either. Everyone had seen and heard him react to Gunner and Hodge popping out of the book, so there was no hiding the fact that Sawyer had been the perfect stodge to have pulled this on. Gunner had told Sawyer to put the book on the floor. Not questioning his brother, he did just what he’d asked him to do. Then Sawyer, falling hook line and sinker for whatever reason Gunner had told him to say abracadabra over it, was just too funny. Gunner and Hodge had just appeared, something akin to being sprinkled from the ceiling. Sawyer had leapt back from them, fallen over the coffee table, breaking it, and screaming like a little girl seeing a spider. Dwayne would forever hear a child scream like that and think of this day. “Keep laughing it up, and I’ll give you a good reason to be sobbing over your supper later.” He couldn’t help it. Dwayne laughed all the harder. “I’m going to knock the shit out of you.” “Behave, the two of you. It was fun.
You have to admit, there haven’t been that many fun things around here of late. Not with us trying to hunt down a killer, people getting their asses shot to fuck, and things like recording devices showing up in the strangest places.” Dwayne noticed that his mom didn’t say anything to the girls for their potty mouth, as she called it. He thought that Andi had the worst of it. Hearing it from men all the time was something he could understand. Sometimes he’d forget she was a woman. Andi didn’t look manly or anything like that. Nor did she have a haircut that would make it difficult to tell what gender she was from behind. Her hair was as beautiful as any sunset he’d ever witnessed, and her figure in those tight pants that women wore nowadays was perfect on her body.
Not that he was looking too hard. “I need to ask you a couple of questions.” Dwayne told Chandler he was all ears. “I don’t want to alarm you, but you have a family following you around. A woman, two children, and a man. None of them seem to be upset or anything like that. They’re new to you. I mean, all of us have a ghost or two hanging around, with the exception of Andi. But this family is new to you.” “Why not Andi?” He said that neither of them knew. “So, you think she’s not ever hurt anyone or caused their deaths? I haven’t either. Not that I know of. And this couple, what do they look like?
What I mean is, my age? Older? Tell me something so I can remember them.” “They’re all four dead, of course. I’m thinking some sort of toxin killed them.” Dwayne watched as his brother had a conversation with, he assumed, one of them. “Carbon poisoning. You do know them in a way. You tried to save them when you came upon their car. Do you remember that?” “Yes.” He looked in the direction his brother was still looking. “If you can hear me, I’m still trying to reach your sister, missus. The number I found in your home was old and no longer assigned.
The police have your cell phone. As soon as they turn it over to me for the few minutes they said I could have, I’ll call her.” “What happened?” Dwayne told Chandler what had happened. “I saw that in the paper. Where they were homeless and living in their car, right? I didn’t see your name mentioned in the article.” “I asked them not to. I don’t know the family at all. I wish I could have done more for them, but they were all dead by then, with the exception of the wife, and she didn’t last that long after I got to them. The children were bundled up in the back seat. The husband had…he killed himself, I think when he figured out what he’d done.
The missus asked me to call her sister to let her know. Brooks is trying to get the police to allow me to call her for them.” Chandler asked if he could help. “I don’t know. I never thought of asking you guys, but you do have an in with the station house. I just need it to get the phone number for a woman by the name of Brit. I might have heard that wrong, but I’m hoping I’m close enough to it that I can call her.” “You have it. It’s Brittany Handle. She lives in New York.” Chandler said that would help. “I’m going to make a call now to the station and see what they can tell me. If they’d just get you the number, that will have next of kin notified.” “Yes, that would be great. If it’s all right with the family.”
Chandler told him that their last name was Lance. He asked him if he wanted their names as well. “It might go a long way in convincing the other woman that I’m not a crackpot. Please. Get it for me.” Dwayne followed Chandler to Sawyer’s office. His brother had been doing work with the police station for weeks now, and his office looked like a crime scene to him. He knew that pictures of the scene were helpful, but the ones on his brother’s walls were bloody and vivid. “Have you seen Gunner’s office? Andi took all his medals that he no longer wore and had them framed with the information on the back as to why he received each one of them. I had no idea that Gunner was such a hero.” Dwayne said he’d not seen them yet.
“You need to have a look at it. It’s beautifully done and very tastefully out there that he’s been saving lives for a decade.” While his brother talked to someone on the phone, Dwayne had a look around this office. It was filled out nicely. He even liked the fact that there was a nice couch across from the desk rather than just chairs. Dwayne envied his brothers’ tastes. Everything in this room said a man worked in here. It wasn’t for show. He supposed if he ever got around to fixing his office up, he’d have a nice one too. Right now, all he had in the room was a few boxes of books, as well as an office chair. Dwayne was working with Holly. Not for her, she told him, but with.
She had not really hinted but outright told him that she was grooming him to take over her businesses when she’d had enough. Dwayne thought she was kidding. Apparently, she didn’t kid around about money and how she made it. “I knew the second I saw you that you’d make the perfect replacement for me. I bet if I were to ask you anyone around here’s name today, you’d be able to tell me what it was.” He said they knew who he was, so it was only fair that he learned their names.
“That, right there, is what I’m talking about. You’re not just a good replacement, Dwayne, but a person that I can be proud of. My son, as you know, doesn’t want it. He said he’s busy learning to live since that horrid wife of his was sent off to prison. Not that I blame him. Being shackled to her should have killed him. But he is being a good son and grandfather to those children.” “Molly loves him. She is having so much fun with her sister and brother that I’m surprised she ever gets out much. Raven said she’s been the best big sister she could have ever hoped for.” Holly told him that was the way it should be. “I agree. My parents love them too. Molly goes to their home several times a week just to hang out with them. I hope if I ever get a mate, then children, they’re like her. Molly is a wonderful kid.”
“I’d like to take full credit for that, but I can’t. Don’t tell her I said this, but I think Raven did a wonderful job of raising her on her own. I helped when she’d let me. Also, Raven doesn’t have all those stupid rules that keep me from having fun with her daughter.” Dwayne didn’t mention her other grandmother. That was a sore spot for all of them. “Did I tell you that my son is going on a cruise with me next month? We’ve never done that before. I think he’ll enjoy it too. While I’m gone, you’ll be running the business.” “Dwayne?” He looked at his brother, being pulled from the panic attack he had every time he thought of running the business. “Here’s the number. The phone doesn’t have service, and I don’t think it has for a long time. The captain there had to plug it in for it to come on. The battery was shot.”
Taking the number from his brother, he laid it by the phone and took in a deep breath. He’d never done anything remotely like this before—called someone to let them know their family member had passed away. Chandler left him there. He also told him that he was alone in the room. Picking up the phone, he glanced at his watch as he only just realized he was happy it wasn’t too late. “Brit Handle’s office. How may I help you?” He was shocked for a moment but gathered himself up quickly. Asking to speak to Brit on a personal matter got him nowhere with the person on the other end. “Do you have any idea how many men call in here thinking I’m a sap and I’m going to hand the phone over to my boss? Plenty. I like my job very much, and the person I work for. So come up with another story, or I’m hanging up.”
“It’s about her sister and her family.” There was a long pause, and Dwayne was terrified she’d hung up on him. She told him, however, that she was Brit. “I’m sorry, Ms. Handle. But they died the day before yesterday.” “How? I’m assuming that fucktard did it.” Dwayne told her how he’d found them and that her sister, while alive, didn’t last long. He did ask her who fucktard was. “Her father-in-law. Howie Lane. Even his name is lazy sounding. It’s his name too. Howie. I’m babbling right now, so bear with me, all right?” “Yes, of course. Your sister’s dying wish was for me to contact you.” He heard a door shut, cutting off the noises that were in the background of the call. “The police usually do this, call the family, but I’d been asked to contact you, and I wanted to do that for her. If it helps you to know, it looked as if the children had simply fallen asleep and died that way.
Not that having children die is a good thing. Now I’m babbling.” “It’s hard to take. I mean, we weren’t really all that close. You said they were in a car. Do you know if they were living anywhere?” He said they couldn’t find an address for them anywhere. Also, the plates on the car had been expired for a few years. “It sounds like Howie kicked them out. Howie wanted to make his son pay for putting him in prison. I’m guessing he’s finally gotten his wish.” “Howard had been shot in the head. I just assumed it was self-inflicted when I saw that he’d been shot. Do you suppose Howie had anything to do with that?” She said she didn’t know but wouldn’t put it past him. “The coroner has released their bodies to me. I’ve made arrangements to have them taken to the local funeral home. Other than prepping the bodies, there hasn’t been anything done. Nothing in the paper either.”
“Good. I’m going to be there in a few days. I can’t leave right now because of things going on here. Isn’t that the way it always is? Anyway, I have a lot going on here that requires my attention. When I get my flight information, can you arrange for us to be picked up? I’ll be bringing my son with me. Is that all right?” “Yes, of course. I can either put you up in a hotel or a bed and breakfast. Either one will be ready when you arrive. May I ask how old your son is? That way, I can figure out if he needs a crib or not.” Her laughter made him smile. “I take it he won’t need a crib.” “Not hardly. He’s twelve going on thirty. He’s the type of kid that keeps his mom straight. His name is Jamison, but he goes by Jamie. Calling him Jamison will make him roll his eyes at you. But the bed and breakfast sounds better than a hotel. Also, can you do me a favor?
If you can’t, then that’s fine too. I’m sure you have more important things to do than help a woman out with a kid. But if you could find a local cemetery that will let them be buried there, that would be wonderful. I don’t know where they were living, but they don’t have anyone around here either.” Dwayne was taking notes on what she wanted when she laughed. He paused in writing down calling the cemetery. “I don’t even know your name. I’m so sorry.” “That’s fine. It’s Dwayne Bishop. My family is well known around here in the event you wanted to check us out before coming here.” She asked him if he was in the habit of calling strangers to tell them that their family had died.
“No. This is my first call. I just don’t want you to think I’m trying to scam you.” “Mr. Bishop, I’ve been scammed by the best of them and have come out on top. I just want to get my sister and her family someplace where it’s nice and then come back here. Dealing with Howie is going to take up a great deal of my time, but he is going to pay. I have a feeling he’s the sole reason they were living out of their car.” He told her he’d find out for her. “Do you have a crystal ball, by chance?” “No. But I do have some very well connected family members. I’ll see what I can find out for you before you arrive.” She thanked him three times before he was able to get off the phone with her. “I’ll see you in a few days, Ms. Handle.”
After hanging up, he asked Sasha if she’d help him out. When she came into the room with him, he told her what Ms. Handle had told him, as well as what he might need in the way of answers from the family. “All right. I can do that for you. But before we go too far, Mr. Lane didn’t kill himself. He wants that known so that he can be buried next to his family. I wasn’t sure what he was meaning by that, but I got it figured out. Also, they think they were murdered. The mister’s father had been trying to do that since they married.”
Dwayne asked her if she knew why. “Not yet. They’re still trying to remember details about things. The little ones haven’t said a word since they showed up with you. I’m thinking it’s the norm for them to be quiet all the time. Also, the missus, she said to thank you for calling her sister.” “She’ll be here in a few days with her son.” Sasha asked him if he knew if there was a husband. “I didn’t ask. Why?” “I don’t know. I was thinking she might be yours or Quincey’s mate. I mean, that’s the way it seems to go, don’t you think?” He told her he didn’t have time for a mate. “You make sure you tell her that when she arrives. All right. Ask your questions, and we’ll go from there.”