Caitlynne’s job was difficult. Doing what she did for the government not only put herself at risk but any friends or family she had could become a target. When her sister was hurt, she blamed herself even though it had nothing to do with her directly. It didn’t matter. It was time for her to quit before someone she cared about ended up dead.
Joel Tate had been in the building to meet with Becca Jacobson when she was attacked. To save her, Joel had to change her into what he was, a wolf. More or less guarding her in the hospital, Joel met her sister, Caitlynne, when she was brought to the hospital to see her sister. As soon as Caitlynne was close enough to him to get her scent, he knew she was his mate.
Caitlynne’s disappearing act from her job started things rolling. Her boss wasn’t taking I quit as an answer. When they tried to kill her by setting her apartment on fire, Joel thought it was time to take the situation into his own hands….
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Joel glanced at his watch when it vibrated on his wrist. Christ, he’d been here for nearly an hour longer than he had planned and still hadn’t talked to the manager of this place. Whatever was going on, it— “Mr. Tate, I’m so sorry about your wait, but I assure you, Ms. Jacobson only went to lunch. And she’s never late. There must have been a problem.” It was on the tip of his tongue to tell her she was going to have a bigger problem when someone touched his mind. Joel, I saw your car in the garage here. Please tell me you’re in the Jacobson Building. He said he was and that he was just about to leave, as Ms. Jacobson was late. Yeah, about that. Come to the garage.
There has been an attempt on her life. I need you to help me out, as I think someone interrupted the person before they could finish her off. “I have to go.” The secretary asked if he could reschedule, and he told her he’d contact her. Tell me what you need, and I’ll be on the outlook for it on my way down. As Officer Donnie Phillips filled him in on what he would need from him, he felt his wolf shiver in response to what had happened to the woman. Getting off the elevator, he could see he’d not only beaten the ambulance but there was only one cruiser in the lot. It was parked near what looked like, from where he stood, a puddle of blood. “Thank goodness you’re here.
I think she might well have gotten off a couple of shots when she was attacked. There is a blood trail to the other elevator that I would like you to, if you’d not mind, follow to see if you can sniff this person out.” He said he could do that. “Thank you. If you wanna shift behind my ride, no one will see you. It’ll give you the opportunity to save your clothing too.” As soon as he was his wolf, he made his way to the woman again. At first, all he could smell was fresh blood, then he got the scent of something else. Male. Human. As he told his friend what he’d been able to find out, he was taken to the elevator to see if he could find what floor the person got off on and if he was still in the building.
“I have no reason to believe he was able to just walk away. There are only two entrances to the place from here—the elevator you took and the service elevator. Can you manage the buttons? If you can, I’m going to wait on the ambulance and backup. My captain knows you’re helping out.” Going to the elevator, he pressed his paw against the up button. As soon as it opened, he turned to Donnie.
“You’ll be fine. If anyone sees you, it’ll help me clear the building.” Donnie was still laughing as the doors closed behind him. Shaking his head, he got off on the first floor and didn’t find the man’s scent anywhere in the hallway, so he got back onto the elevator. Joel didn’t find anything on the second or the third floor. Just as he was going to press the button for the next floor, a man, a vampire, appeared in the opening with him. As soon as the door closed, he turned to him.
“Joel Tate, I presume.” Joel nodded. “The young woman is a dear friend of mine, and I should like to help you on your search. I also would like to exchange a little blood with you so I can speak to you.” He put out his hand, and Joel eyed the cut and the oozing blood there. “I shan’t hurt you, Joel. On my honor as a very old vampire, I shall never harm you. But I cannot help without being able to speak to you.” Licking the blood at the same time, the man bit into his paw, the power of it knocked him back to the other wall. Before he could stand, Joel, staggered to his feet twice before realizing a couple of things.
He was his other self again, and he was dressed in jeans and a T-shirt. “What the hell did you do to me?” The man said nothing, but he was a little off-balance as well. “That was more than just an exchange of blood. I feel like I’ve stuck my finger in a light socket while standing in a puddle of water.” “I feel the same, young Joel. You’re more than a simple wolf, as I first thought. Aren’t you?” He said nothing but did stand up. “If I’m right, and about magic, I’m rarely wrong; you’ll be able to shift now and have your clothing on when you shift back. Something I didn’t count on, but a good thing, I believe.”
When nothing more was said, and they both could stand on their own two feet, the man pressed the button for the ninth floor. When the elevator stopped again, he turned to him, and Joel could see that he was indeed a very old vampire. Magic seemed to surround him from head to toe. “My name is Hudson. I no longer remember if it is my first or last name, but that is what I go by. When pressed, I simply use Smith. Much easier to remember for me. The young woman, her name is Rebecca Jacobson, saved my life a very long time ago and has come to mean a great deal to me. By the way, she goes by Becca.” He asked him if he was going to help Becca live. “I cannot. She made me promise her I would not enhance her life, nor would I save it when it is her time to go. She has…Becca has lost a great deal in her lifetime, and I think she wishes her life to end sooner rather than later.
Hurt is the only thing she knows, I believe. But the man who has dared touch her, he is dead. Not by my hand, though I wish it were so, but by Becca. She was able to shoot him three times before he ran off like the mongrel he was.” “Then why are you bringing me up here? I mean, I don’t mind helping out the police, but you could have found him for them.” He said he didn’t want the publicity. “All right. I can understand that. I’ll let Donnie know he’s dead and that he’s up here. Where am I going to be leading them?” The man had managed to make it all the way to the bathroom door before he finally died from his wounds. She’d gotten him in the chest twice and once in the neck. He would have to tell her she’d done a great job of it, too.
The man had suffered badly, Joel would bet before he finally crawled away just as Hudson had told him he had. The police were on their way up to the floor when Hudson said he was going to check on Becca. As soon as he disappeared, Joel sat down on the floor with his hands where the police could see them. He knew all the men and women on the force, but this could get his ass killed if someone was a little jumpy.
As soon as he was cleared, he stood around waiting for someone to tell him what he needed to do. There was talk about him going to fill out a report on what he’d seen, but Donnie said he’d done them a solid and wasn’t to be mentioned as being there. “Thanks for that.” Reaching out to his brothers, all five of them, Joel made his way home. There wasn’t going to be a meeting with Becca, so there wouldn’t be any reason for a follow-up. He was going ahead with the plans he and Becca had made via email. Calling in the construction company they used, he got them set up with credit at the local lumber stores as well as two more places they’d used before when working on projects. He’d been planning to lend her the money anyway, so he was thinking while she was laid up, he’d get things going for her.
He would cover her expenses, what she’d been wanting to borrow money for in the first place, so they could start on the improvements. The company, Jacobson Toys, had been stuck in the same building for the last thirty or so years. She’d told him the plans she had to expand. Also, what she planned on doing with the extra room. The toys were wonderfully whimsical and well made. He had a few of them on his desk at the office. Joel headed there now. When he got there, both Saul and Loren were there waiting on him. It wasn’t unusual for any or all of his brothers to be at the office, but he’d had a weird morning and had shit to do. Not bothering to interrupt their argument, he headed to his office and turned on his computer. Saul flopped down in the seat to his left, and Loren headed to the fridge.
Taking out three bottles of water, he handed one to him and to Saul before he started talking. “There is a great number of foreclosed buildings and houses going up for auction in the next couple of days. Loren and I have the addresses of the homes. We’re going to go in the morning to have a look at them. The bank holds the note on those.” He asked him about the buildings. “There is where it gets tricky. The city is holding onto those, but they want them gone. Problem is, they put so many stipulations on them it’s not worth the purchase even if you could get them for a hundred thousand bucks. The two buildings that are nearer to us that I’d be interested in are well over four million dollar buildings. One of those is only a few years old.” “What sort of stipulations? Anything we can just agree to?”
“Because they’re greedy, or they are worth whatever they’re wanting?” “They’re worth it. But they’re demanding that each of the buildings be purchased as a unit. Then there are the improvements that have to be made to each building. Joel, as I said, one is new, and one of them won’t take much to bring it to code. However, two of the others need to be torn down. They’re old and outdated, not to mention the cost of upgrading them, if someone wanted to try, would be triple what the place would be worth. They’re not in a good neighborhood. No parking to speak of, and we’d be responsible for sidewalk improvements and paying for water and sewage to be brought in. Wiring alone would be astronomical.” Loren said it would cost more to do that.
“Sounds to me like you’ve made your decision.” He nodded but didn’t look like he’d actually decided anything. “What is it, Saul? You know something more. Tell me or get out. I’ve so much to do now that I’ll be here until midnight as it is.” “I heard about the attempted murder. I’m sorry you were involved. But it did turn out well.” Joel thanked his brother. “No, I’m not sure about the buildings. The newer building would be great for several companies wishing to expand. The building is over two million square feet, not counting the parking garage. It’s in mint condition as well. When it was finished, the people didn’t get to move in because of billing issues or something.” “That’s a big building.” Joel leaned back in his chair.
“Say we do this with the city and the two buildings we’re not wanting aren’t up to code. What happens then?” While Saul looked over the contract on his laptop he was never without. Joel asked Loren if he had any plans for the houses. Loren smiled at him with what his dad would have called a shit-eating grin. “There are two streets of houses we’re going to purchase. Eighteen homes in all. Most of them have been rentals for a long time and need some major overhauling. After we finish up on that, we’d be able to get about four times the amount of rent from them.” He asked what his plans were for the people living in the houses. “For the most part, they’re empty.
There are a couple of renters in three of them. An older man that is willing to be put in a nursing home if he can afford it. He told me he’s been saving for it all his life. Another one has an older couple in it. The missus is very ill and needs constant care. Their rent is only about two hundred a month—that’s how much they’ve been paying since moving in. But it will be difficult for them to make any kind of nursing home rent with their income. I’m having Dad look into a couple of charities to help out.” “That’s a good idea. And the third one? What sort of people live there?” Loren handed him a file. Opening it up, he could see the house was literally falling down around the edges.
The roof was nearly collapsed. There was plastic on the windows. “How the hell is anyone living in this place? Christ, I don’t think I’d allow anyone to live under those conditions.” “I wouldn’t either. The man that lives there is a cat. Lion, I believe he told me. He’s been living there, squatting, for the last five or so years. He’s afraid to complain about the house for fear that someone will make him pay rent for the time he’s been there. Joel, he’s in terrible shape.
Not just because of how he’s living, but he’s malnourished, as well as badly dehydrated. I was going to call the local leap, but I wanted to see if you’d do it. I don’t know the history there, but I have a feeling he’s hiding out from them.” “We’ve all heard the stories that are going on with the leap,” Loren said that was another reason he’d not called. “Let me think on it for a bit. In the meantime, have someone take him some food and a case or two of water. Better yet, get him set up in one of the houses we have. Then feed him. Anyone else I should be made aware of? Unless you’ve already done that.”
“I have. But I do appreciate that we’re on the same page with it. There is also his daughter, Harlin. I don’t know her at all, but Mr. Jason Lambert, the lion I was telling you about that is living in one of the falling down houses, said Harlin works for the leap leader and is terrified of him. I’m going to move her as well if you don’t mind.” Joel nodded just as Saul laughed. “I’m assuming you’ve found a loophole?” “I have. Just as you said, Joel. If they’re not up to code, we’ll be required by law to take the buildings down. We’re only buying it for the land anyway. So the improvements they’re requiring us to make are to knock the ones down that aren’t up to code.” Joel told Saul to wait until they made the purchase before he called them in.
“Can do. Thanks. You’ve just made us about fifty million. When I sell off the building, and I have a couple of buyers already lined up, we’ll make all of our money back, and then some.” ~*~ Caitlynne was tempted to pull out her gun and blow the five men in front of her to hell. They’d been called to her office an hour ago, and all she’d been able to say was that she wanted them to report on the shipment that was to go out in four days. Now they were arguing about who was going to tell her. Mother fuck, there were days she hated being a boss. “Ms. Jacob, there is a phone call for you on line three. Also, I’m told they’ve been trying to reach you on your cell. Whichever way you’d like to talk to them.” She asked what it was about.
“I don’t know. All he’d tell me was his name was Hudson.” Every hair on her body seemed to dance with fear. Putting her fingers in her mouth, she let go of the loudest whistle she could manage, which was saying a lot. Someone had told her once that she could shatter glass when she did it. The five men turned to her. “I thought we had a meeting.” She told the first man she’d thought so too, but she was moving on. “But we need to make sure the shipment is going out as planned. Don’t you want to know what is going on?” “The shipment is weighed and packed, correct?” Like stupid puppies, they all nodded. “Is the paperwork filled out? Filed? The addresses have been triple-checked?” “Yes, all of that. Like we do every time.”
His face flushed. “Except for that one time. But we don’t skip steps anymore. I like this job.” “Good. It sounds like you’ve taken care of it just the way you’re supposed to. However, if one thing isn’t right, the five of you will lose your jobs. This contract is important to me, and if you fuck it up again, there will be heads rolling. Understand?” Again with the nodding heads. “Now get out. I have shit to get done, and I can’t with you bickering all the time.” Picking up her phone, she had to put it back down before she could hold it steady. When she thought she was able to handle it, she decided to lock her door and then call. After returning to her desk, she turned on the white noise generator. Picking up the phone again, she called the last number that was there. She glanced at her clock to see it was well after sunset, so Hudson would be awake.
“Hello? Are you there? Who is this?” “It’s Caitlynne. You called here and asked for me to call you. Hudson?” The man said his name, but she didn’t catch it. Before she could ask him to repeat himself, he started talking. “I didn’t know she had a sister until this morning. Before I get too much further into what happened, you should know she’s on the mend. Beaten to shit, but she’ll be all right in a few weeks.” She let out a breath she’d been holding since Mary had told her about the call. “She was coming back from lunch—we know that because she had it in a bag with her. Someone, a man by the name of Benson Tuple, caught her off guard, or she might well have killed him before he hurt her. As it was, she shot him three times, twice in the chest and once in the neck. He died of his wounds.” “Where is she—?
Wait. Hudson was the one that called here. Is he all right too? I’ve never met him, but Becca talks about him a great deal. We, Becca and I, can’t make it public that we’re related. My business would get her killed.” The man said Hudson had stayed at the hospital and he’d come back to work. “I didn’t catch your name. I’m sorry. You also said Becca is all right. Can I speak to her? When do you go back to see her? I can’t acknowledge her in any way, but I need to hear her voice.” “Joel Tate. And sure. I was going to go in and spell Hudson for a little while anyway. You said you didn’t know him. I wanted to let you know Becca had told him a while back that he wasn’t to save her if she was close to death. I…so I did it. She was as near to death as anyone I’ve ever seen. If that pisses either one of you off, then I’m all right with that too. She does some fantastic work, and it would be a shame for her to die and not be able to work on her dream.”
Caitlynne started crying as she spoke to the stranger. “I don’t know what her dreams are anymore. I work for the government in inspecting cannabis and then shipping it out to distribution centers. If people were to know I have a sister, they’d hurt her to get at me. I’m so stressed out all the time I don’t know which way is up or down. I practically live here. I even have a cot in the other room that I use when I’m too exhausted to go home. Now my baby sister is hurt, and I’m sitting here at my desk wondering if it’s worth all this.” He didn’t say anything, for which she was grateful as she continued to sob. “I’m so sorry. I don’t know why I’m telling you this.
You could very well do the same thing I was just talking about. Don’t hurt her. Please?” “I’d never do that to either of you. However, you should take some time off, even if you only go home for a day or two. I was like that until recently. It took me having a panic attack in the middle of a meeting for me to realize I’m working myself into an early grave. Just breathe, honey. You’re doing just fine now.” She did as he said, breathing in and out with each command. “You’re going to be all right. Becca is in good hands. And when I’m not there with her or Hudson, one of my brothers is. Nothing will harm her.” “Thank you for that.” He said it was fine. “You said you helped her to live. I’m assuming you’re not human. What are you?”
“Wolf.” She asked him what sort of wolf. “No one has asked me that before. We’re timberwolves. Or I guess you could call us grays. My dad is a wolf as well, as all of us are purebloods. As I said, no one will harm your sister while we’re around.” “Thank you again for that. I’d love to go and see her, but things here aren’t the best.” He said he understood that so long as she remembered no job was worth dying over. “I guess that’s true, but my bosses at the White House think that way.”
She glanced at her calendar as he laughed. “You’re like my dad, I think. He has this thing about him that makes you either want to punch him to death or hug the stuffing out of him. I have no idea why, but I just think that.” She smiled. It was the nicest thing that had been said to or about her for a long time. “I tell you what. Hudson is good at popping in and out of places. He’s gotten us some really good—never mind. But dinners have been hot. Anyway, maybe I can see if he can come and get you and pop you here. Becca is still in a coma to keep her from fighting the meds, but you could just come and see her at least. I could keep you updated on her progress as well. I more than likely should have said this from the start, but she had a broken wrist and elbow. Fifty stitches in her head, mostly caused by her falling.
She has a great many superficial wounds all over her body that are healing, thanks mostly to my blood. Her left leg is broken, and her right ankle is sprained badly. She’s doing well now that they have her stitched up and put into casts. The doctor said she would make a full recovery.” “I’d like for you to talk to Hudson for me. I’d love to just reassure myself that she’s doing well.” He said he was going to the hospital in a few minutes, and he’d talk to him then. “Thank you for that. You’re a very kind man. I hope someone tells you that daily.” “Mostly, my brothers are there to point out the shit they think I’ve done. But they’re all right. Okay, I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.” She thanked him for what seemed like the hundredth time.
“No need for that, Ms. Jacob. I’m sure if you were in the same situation, you’d do the same for me. I’ll call you back.” When they hung up, she felt like she could take on the world and come out a winner. She’d not seen Becca in a couple of years now. It was dangerous for them to be seen together. Caitlynne had had that happen before, where someone decided to take a friend of hers hostage and try to get her to do what they wanted. It didn’t end well for the man. Caitlynne was clearing her desk of all paperwork when a man just suddenly appeared in the room. Glancing at the white box, what she called the device that the government had given her to use in the event someone was using a recording device when in this room, she could see it was still turned on so no one would ever be able to repeat what was said in here. Good. She had a feeling she was staring at Hudson. “Will you come with me willingly?” It was an odd way of putting things, but she nodded. “I should like for you to quiz me, young lady. Just to make sure you’re not going with anyone else. The man you spoke to, what was his name?” She told him. “Very good. He told me something you admitted, and it hurt him, so you understand. Can you tell me what that was?”
She had to think. “That I’ve not seen my sister in some time.” He nodded, and she stood up this time. “Will this hurt me? I mean, will I have any ill effects from this?” “Not at all.” Suddenly she was in a bathroom. Turning toward an odd sound, she saw a half-naked man taking a piss. “Joel, cover-up.” “Holy fucking Christ, Hudson. You couldn’t allow me a few seconds’ warning? I’m taking a leak here.” She couldn’t help it. Caitlynne started laughing. “This isn’t funny. He never warns me about shit when he’s…could you please turn around while I redress myself?” She couldn’t help but stare at the man when he turned at his shoulder and looked at her.
Christ, he was the most gorgeous man she’d ever laid eyes on. And his body? Well, hell, she’d be glad for just a touch. Hudson took her chin into his fingers and turned her head. As he washed his hands at the sink, Joel bitched at Hudson, mostly telling him what a cad he’d been, a word she’d not heard in a long time. Also that he should be banned from entering a bathroom when there were plenty of other places he could pop in and out of. “But, and pardon me for being so wrong, I thought this the safest place for me to pop, as you called it. I hadn’t any idea you’d be in here. Though I will admit, you’ve given this old man a great deal to laugh about.” Joel glared at the vampire. “Oh, come now, young man. You do have to admit this was very funny.” “For you, perhaps, but not me. Damn it. I was peeing.”
Hudson left the two of them standing there, and she put out her hand. “I’m Joel, in the event you didn’t get that.” “Yes, I heard. I’m Caitlynne Jacobson. But I go by Jacob. I’m so happy you talked him into coming to get me.” Joel said he was, too, as a matter of fact. “Good. Do you think it’s safe to see my sister now? I promise the next time I pop in, I’ll make sure it’s clear in here.” “You can try to tell him that, but even after spending only a few days with the man, I’ve come to the conclusion he pretty much does what he wants.” She started for the door. “Caitlynne, there is something else you should know before you go out there to your sister. I’m your mate.” He moved around her to be standing in front of her. With a quick kiss on her mouth, so quick she didn’t have time to react, he was gone.
It took her befuddled mind a few more minutes and a knock on the door for her to get moving again. He was her mate? Not the other way around, but that he was hers. Like he belonged to her. Going to the bed to see Becca, she let her thoughts go out of her head. Her sister was here. She was breathing but hooked up to all sorts of monitors. Gently taking her hand into hers, Caitlynne kissed it and held it to her cheek. “I’m here, Becca. Get better for me, please? I’ve missed you so much.” She decided right then and there that she was finished with her job. It was taking too much from her. Not just her health, but her sister as well. “I’m going to go back to work and send in my resignation. I’ve missed so much, and I want to be with you.
I love you, Becca. So much.” She was able to sit with her sister for an hour. The staff came in and out, but Hudson had made it so that they’d not see her. They were taking good care of her, very gentle when they needed to move her or anything, even telling her what they were doing and how it would affect her. She looked at Joel when they were alone in the room. “My family donates a great deal of money to this place. Not that she’d not be getting good care anyway, but they’ve put on extra staff just so they could take care of her. I told them she was my cousin. I hope that was all right.” Caitlynne said it was wonderful. Then she asked him what he’d meant by him being her mate. “We can hold off on that for now. I will tell you anything you want to know, but you visit with your sister now. My brother Jeremiah is bringing in dinner for us. I hope you like pasta.”
“I do. It goes straight to the hips, but I love it.” He told her she’d not gain any weight from now on because of him. “Well then, bring it on. Thank you for this. It seems so inadequate for me to keep saying that, but you’ve no idea how much I needed this. I just wish she’d wake and talk to me so I’d feel better.” “She will. She’s doing well.” He sat down across from her on the other side of the bed. “I’m going to just sit here. If you have any questions, just ask. But I will give you the straight-up answer.” “Good. I’d have it no other way.” Caitlynne tried not to think of the beautiful man sitting there with her. He was, too, from his long dark hair that he’d pulled back in some kind of ponytail to the five o’clock shadow on his face. She found herself staring at him several times throughout the rest of the evening. Then his brother showed up. Christ, they must have been cut from the same mold. They were both like looking at candy you couldn’t get enough of.