Cliff Tate’s Crossing Release Blitz & Giveaway

Shade Cornwall did her best to help her mother and siblings escape that maniac known as her father, but she’d never acknowledge that. Their run ended abruptly when he tossed a Molotov cocktail into their moving vehicle. Her mother was burning, and it was all she could do to help save her and her siblings from the burning vehicle. As it ended up, her mother’s prognosis for survival didn’t look too good. Cliff Tate had just returned from a long stint out of the country. It felt good to be home. He didn’t hesitate to take in the kids from the burning vehicle while the driver and their mother were rushed to the hospital. Shade had no trust in men. Her father had seen to that. Cliff seemed to be a good man, but she’d had enough of men to last her a lifetime….

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https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/90586310-cliff

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….


Cody Martin was a good attorney. Never appreciated at her job, she still never wavered in her loyalty. And when she was suddenly fired for no reason, she found it would be the perfect opportunity to start a business with her brother Matt.

Layton Tate was also an attorney, but he and his brother Loren were bogged down with cases and needed to hire a new firm to help with their caseload. Cody would make a good candidate as her stellar reputation proceeded her. He reached out to shake Cody’s hand. The blast sent them both reeling to opposite sides of the room and shocking the family. Layton and his wolf both knew what that meant

Cody wasn’t stupid, she knew what Layton was to her too, but she had to make sure the ground rules were straight before she’d have anything to do with him. No one would be pushing her around, mate or no mate….

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Prologue


Cliff was glad to be home. He’d been out of the country for the last several months, and
he needed his own bed and was looking forward to meeting the family’s newest
members. As soon as he was able to get out of the jet and onto the ground, he wanted to
lay down and kiss the earth. Home. He was home.


“Son, you all right?” He hugged his dad, having only been able to do video chats
through an app since he’d left in order to see him. And he’d talked to him through their
link when he had a question about work. Cliff really missed his dad. Dad hugged him
just as tightly. “I’m assuming you’re happy to be here. As much as I’m glad you are.”
“You’ve no idea. I’m so ready for a home-cooked meal with all the trimmings
and the rest of the family shouting to be heard over everyone else. How are you, Dad?”
He told him he was better now that all his boys were home. “I bet you are. I’ve missed
you so much, Dad. All of you. Tell me about the others. Caitlynne and Cody.”
As he and Dad went to get his luggage from the baggage return, Dad filled him
in on everything. Not in a timely manner, but he enjoyed his dad jumping from one
story to the next.


“Joel is going to be a daddy. And then there are Cody’s brothers. Well, it’s only
Matt that is her true brother, but I sure do like Donald too. They’re raising Cody’s
sister’s children. Paige, I told you about her.” He said it was in the papers where he’d
been too. “My goodness, really? Well, she’s being taken up to one of those criminally
insane places. I have a feeling she’ll never make it there. Not just staying there, but I
don’t think the family means for her to live out her life. She’s a nasty sort of person, son.


About the nastiest, I’ve ever heard of.”
They decided to get a sandwich on the way home. He was starving, and Dad
said he could eat. That meant he was going to have a few burgers and a milkshake.
Dad’s “I could eat” was like he’d not eaten in ten days. Still, Cliff enjoyed himself just
hanging out with his dad.


By the time they were pulling up in front of a house he didn’t recognize, he was
starving again. Dad told him they were eating at Matt and Donald’s home because
Donald, a chef, wanted them to try some dishes he wanted to put on his menu. It would
be frou-frou food. Cliff just knew it.


But the smells coming from the back of the house told him Donald was cooking
like his mom had, with bacon grease in the fried potatoes and ham chunks in the green
beans, which had been simmering all day in the fat. Going into the beautifully
appointed kitchen, he was hugged by the rest of his family. Then he was introduced to
the women.


“You’ve been the topic of conversation for the last couple of days. I think that
any one of the single women, no matter the age, would snatch you up in a heartbeat if
you were single for too much longer.” He told Caitlynne that women loved him. “Sure
they do. You’ll keep your pants zipped up and your mouth virginal while I’m around,
buddy. I won’t have you putting notches on bedposts on my watch.”
They both laughed, as did his family. He was introduced to Matt and Donald
and then Kelly and Dani. Dad had told him about them, so he had a gift for them both
to welcome them to the family. Pulling out a suitcase he’d brought in with him, he
handed them each a large basket of things he’d picked up just for them.


“I went to this little coffee shop daily to get their hot chocolate and sweet rolls.
They made you both up a batch of it, so you can have some here when I visit. I have my
own stash, so you won’t have to share.” The little girl was very shy and hid behind her
brother. Cliff winked at her. “I also have you a doll. One, I had no idea when I got her
that she’d be just as pretty as you are. My goodness, you could be the model they used.”
The doll was a huge hit, and she went off to play with it. He asked Kelly if he
would like his special gift. The little man looked up at Donald, asking permission, and
Cliff thought he should have asked first before giving them gifts.


“Never be afraid to bring the kids something special from your travels, Cliff.
Later the four of us will go over the gifts you gave them and talk about where they
came from. It’s wonderful of you to think of them in this way.” He nodded at Donald
but felt bad. “I’m serious, Cliff. I’m so happy you’ve included them as part of your
family. The others have, and it’s been so much easier on them. What did he get you,
Kelly?”


“Dad told me he was enjoying learning to carve animals in the wood. I did, too,
as a child. So, I got him something he’ll need to use for the rest of his days. It’s an entire
set of cutting tools. Dad told me he was a very responsible little guy and that he’d take
good care of them when I told him what I’d gotten him.” The knives were beautiful.
“You will be careful, won’t you, Kelly?”


“Yes, sir. Oh my goodness, they are really nice, aren’t they? Look, Uncle Matt,
they have my initials in them.” He’d thought that would be a good thing to do since
they were so expensive. “I love them, Uncle Cliff. You’re my uncle, right?”
He glanced at Matt, who nodded. “Yes, I guess I am since your aunt is married to
my brother. We’ll have some good times, kiddo. I’m going to be the fun uncle when we
hang out.” He would, too, since he had no plans of getting a mate until he was in his
nineties. Perhaps not even that soon. He was going to be forever known as the fun guy
to hang out with. “Why don’t we go out in the yard before dinner and find you a good
starting stick? I’ve been playing with carving since I was a kid, but I might need some
practice.”


The three of them spent a few hours out on the deck playing with their toys. The
carving tools had been carved out of stone and bonded with an alloy that kept them
forever sharp. Dani played with her doll, making up stories to go along with the things
they were doing. She even went into the house and got her tea set that she’d gotten the
other day, and he shared a nice cup of green grass cuttings and water with her.
“I’m not allowed to have sugar in my tea cups. Uncle Donald said it’s messy and
unhealthy. He wants us to be healthy little buggers.” Cliff didn’t laugh, though he
wanted to badly. “I’m not sure I like being called a bugger, but whatever floats his boat,
as Grannie Lou says. Did you know I’m calling your daddy Grandpa too? He’s funny.”
“He is at that.”


When they were called into dinner, he was surprised to see that the kids were
going to eat in the kitchen. “I mean, I know it’s not my home or kids, but you don’t
allow them to eat with you?”
“It’s not that. Don’t get your underwear twisted up around your balls. As you
can tell, I’m betting right now that they perhaps didn’t want them subjected to the way
we talk when together.” He asked what they were having. “Us? We’re taste testing. The
kids are having pizza. Make their own pizzas, I guess.”


The talk around the table was loud, just as he was used to, and fun. Dad told
them about the day he’d had, and Cliff explained to them that he was never going to be
gone that long again. Joel called him a pussy, and all was right with the world.
When they entered the living room to talk, he pulled out the paperwork to give
to his brothers. They’d not look at it until tomorrow, as this was family time, and he
was all right with that. Cliff had a lot of unpacking to do, as well as the few things he’d
sent home before leaving.


It was well after midnight when he arrived home. The apartment he was renting
wasn’t all that large, nor was it very filled out. He had a bed, a table, and a chair. Then
he had two sofas he’d never sat in but had taken a few naps on. Smiling to himself as he
readied himself for bed, he thought he was asleep before his head hit the pillow.
The pounding at the door had him jumping out of bed and nearly shifting as he
woke. Going to the front of his place, he jerked the door open just in time to see a fire
truck and two ambulances parked outside. Glad now that he’d pulled on his pants, he
went into the early morning hour and watched what was going on.


A car had been set to flames. There were bundled-up people around it, but he
couldn’t make out who they were. Making his way to the car and the police, he was
stopped by no less than five people telling him they were glad he was back home.
“Cliff, do you think you could take the children into your home? I know it’s a lot
to ask, but I think it’s about to rain, and they’ve been through enough today without
getting soaked through too.” He said it would be fine. “Thank you. The mother isn’t
going to make it, I’m afraid. The oldest daughter, she pulled her out of the burning car
when their father, the fucking bastard, tossed a flaming cocktail at the car with his
children inside.”


After getting as much information as he could, Cliff took the four children to his
apartment. Shade was the oldest child at twenty-four—not really a child, he
supposed—but she’d been taken to the hospital with her mom. The others ranged from
the age of eighteen to ten. He got them bowls of cereal to eat, glad he’d ordered
groceries to be at his place when he arrived and set them on the couches to rest. Most of
them fell asleep before he was able to get blankets out for them.

Garfield Griffin Brothers Release Blitz & Giveaway

Garfield watched the unconscious pretty woman thrashing on the bed. He had already determined that the woman, Sable, wasn’t his mate, but he couldn’t take his eyes off her. When he grabbed her hand to keep her from hurting herself, his entire body seemed to be touched by an electrical wire. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t let go.

Just before Garfield passed out, he realized that not only was Sable his mate, but she was transferring an enormous amount of power to him….

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Edwin Griffin was looking forward to his retirement from the Army. But it seemed his superiors were having trouble letting go. As a wolf shifter and an immortal, Edwin’s senses were keen. He had no intention of “keeping in touch” or to continue working for them, for that matter. Something about them felt off, and Edwin had no intention of being a pawn in whatever scheme they were plotting.Storm was very protective of her sister, Rain. Their parents had somehow found them, and Rain was vulnerable to their influence. The sisters both possessed magical talents that were growing stronger daily. When Charlie Griffin offered to help, Storm jumped at the chance to protect her sister. Edwin was a bit surprised to find the feisty woman Storm to be his mate. She had a hard time with trust, but Edwin was determined to work on that, but he had his own issues to resolve. Although retired from the military as well, Storm would still take on an occasional assignment. But when the assignment from her superiors was to do something about her mate. Well, things just got a bit more personal….

Tony couldn’t believe what he was seeing on the security monitor. A woman and her kid were living in the alleyway next to his office, and they were in trouble. A man snuck up on her and snatched the kid. He had to do something….

Jana Cantrell wasn’t taking the news too well. She would have been dead and her son in the clutches of that maniac if it hadn’t been for her being Tony’s mate, and she was now immortal. She didn’t trust men. She had just escaped from the imprisonment of the maniac who had nearly killed her. No way in hell would she be enslaved by another….

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Happy Reading,

Prologue


Charles, Charlie to most people who knew him, was so lost that he hadn’t any idea if he
was walking on the ground or the sky. He knew the difference, of course, but it was so
dark out tonight that if there had been a moon shining, he couldn’t see it. When he sat
himself down on a log to get his bearings again, he paused in his thinking to look at
what could have made the sound he’d heard.
Terrified out of his mind when he saw glowing eyes looking at him, Charlie sat
as still as he could. The eyes grew larger and incredibly more shiny as the beast made
his way to him. He didn’t run, knowing that even if he knew where he was at the
moment, the wolf would know it better. It would chase him down and kill him without
any hesitation.


The wolf, a big gray fella, just stood there within a few inches of his outstretched
legs. When he laid down, putting his heavy head onto his leg, Charlie had another
moment of fear. The thing never took his eyes off him either. As soon as he felt he was
brave enough to try and talk to the wolf, he was gone, and in his place was a man.
A fully clothed man with the gray of the wolf’s fur colored into his hair. Even his
eyes were the same as the wolf, Charlie thought. Still, neither of them moved until the
man sat back on his butt and regarded him.


“You live on the property not far from here. Is that correct?” Charlie told him he
was only squatting there until they found him. But he was a mite lost. “Yes, I’ve been
following you for some time. And in all that time, did you harm any other animal you
came across, and there were plenty too. Why is that?”


“You mean the rabbit and the family of deer?” The man nodded. “I don’t have a
need for meat just now. I only kill when I have to. When my belly feels like it can’t go
another minute without some meat in it. And even then, I use it up to the best I can.
What I can’t use, I find some other animal that will use the rest. Why do you ask?”
“I’ll get to that. You didn’t seem that surprised when I changed from wolf to
man. Can you tell me why that is?” He nodded and told him what he’d been seeing a
lot of lately. “Yes, war will make a man wish for better times. So you were surprised but
just wrote it off as being another strange thing that had no explanation. That’s a very
good reason, I think.”


“They say that the war is about over. I don’t know much about that. I can still
hear shooting when I’m out and about. I don’t have any land left because the soldiers
took it all when they was coming through. Not that it was much more than a bunch of
rocks and stumps, to begin with.” The man only nodded. “I’m Charles Griffin. Most call
me Charlie. A great deal more, but I ignore them. Not everybody was able to go to
school all the time. I had my family to feed when my daddy up and got sick. Momma
died a few weeks ago, and I’ve been roaming around since looking for work. I don’t
suppose you know anyone that might be wanting an extra hand around or two, do
you?”


“I do, as a matter of fact. My name is Romeo Hank. The Hank is for when I need
a last name. But I do have something that I’d like to propose to you if you’ve got the
time to listen.” Charlie told him he didn’t have anything but time right now. “All right.
“I have a medium-sized pack. You can see a few of them over there watching over us.
They’re all just wolves. I’m the only wolf shifter that I know. They’re a good bunch.
Hungry most of the time but then all of us are, correct?”


“Yes. Some more than others. At least I can find me a bit of string and fashion me
up a hook to use.” Romeo told him that was excellent. “You need me to fish some fish
out for you and your pack? I don’t mind at all doing that for you. In fact, I’d be
powerful happy to help you out.”


“Not just yet. But I think that I will take you up on it soon. I have a daughter. Her
name is Luna. Such a beautiful name, don’t you think?” Charlie asked if it meant moon.
“It does. Thank you. You’re very well educated for a man with no means of living.”
“My mom was a school teacher when I was born. They fired her, of course, when
she had me. She didn’t know my daddy, so that didn’t help her none. She taught me to
read and to figure. I can write too, but I do have to think about the spelling of things.
Can you write?” Romeo said that he’d been given a great gift in that. “I think so too.
When I find me a newspaper or some little old book, I treasure it for a bit. Then I pass it
on if I can. I don’t have to know the people in the paper. I just like reading about their
stories. Are you going to tell me what this is about?”


“I am. I was working up to it, but I believe you to be a man that can be trusted
with things in life. I would like to change you into a wolf. One such as I am. You’ll be a
man when you wish. A wolf when necessary. There will be magic as well as wealth.”
Charlie told him he didn’t have use for wealth, but food all the time would be nice.
“That is precisely what I’m speaking about, Charlie, my good man.”


Throughout the rest of the night and well into the morning, they spoke of things
that Romeo needed from him. It wasn’t brought up again about him being changed, but
Romeo did tell him that his daughter had found out that he, plain old Charlie was her
mate. The sole reason that he’d not been harmed while wandering around in the woods.
“Do you understand what it is I want you to do?” Charlie said that he thought
so. “No. I’m sorry. I can’t allow you to go into this, only thinking you understand.
Please, ask me anything that you’d like. You must be clear on this. I need for you to be
clear on how it is I wish for you to someday take over for me.”


Romeo never got upset with him when he asked his questions. If Charlie was
honest with himself, which he usually tried not to be, he was afraid that Romeo had
picked the wrong man. That he’d be better off finding himself someone else to take over
his empire.


“You’re the right man, Charlie. When I told you that I’d been following you
around, I wanted you to know that it wasn’t just last evening. But for some time now.
I’ve seen you share your last bit of food with people. Work for someone that cannot do
for themselves and not take anything but a bit of bread and water. You’re a very good
man. A better man that I am.” Charlie started to protest. “No. I’m correct in picking you
as my replacement. And if that is some of your worries, being an Alpha, you’ve no
worries there either. I will not leave this earth for the next until you are comfortable
with what is needed of you. Now. If you’ve no more questions, I shall leave you to
allow you to think on it. I’ll be back here tomorrow so that you can tell me your answer.
I know I have picked the right man, Charlie. It’s something that you can do easily to
save this pack and my daughter.”


Luna followed him as he walked around. He’d thought about calling back
Romeo and asking more questions, but he didn’t. Sitting down again, his leg bothering
him from sitting so long, he looked at the big, beautiful wolf.
“You’re not really his daughter, are you?” She shook her head. “I didn’t think so.
Is there any more of the others that he claims are his children?” She nodded this time,
and he determined by asking questions that it was one other female. “I don’t know
what to think about all this, to be honest with you. Are you my mate? Is he telling me
the truth? I just don’t know what to think.”


She nodded or shook her head after each of the questions he put to her. Yes, she
was his mate. Yes, Romeo was telling the truth. There were many more questions and
answers. He was headed back to the area where he’d first seen Romeo when he felt the
pain take his breath away as it slammed into his left shoulder.
Falling back, he hit his head and lay there while trying his best to catch his
breath. That was when he heard the other gunshots, the wolf howling and trying to
hide. Pulling Luna toward him, he whispered harshly into her ear, hoping that at least
she’d understand him enough to know that she must warn the others.
“Go. Tell Romeo to hide the pack. To make sure you and your sister are safe.”
She didn’t want to leave him, whimpering at him as she laid her head on his shoulder.
“Go. Please. Run and escape before they hurt you too.”


When she left him, Charlie closed his eyes. Opening them when he felt the
shadow darken over him, he looked up in time to see the barrel of a large rifle. He was a
goner. He knew that. He could only hope that Luna and the others were safe.


~~ Thousands of years later…. Boo watched the young woman he’d been watching over since she’d been nothing but a wee babe. He wasn’t told anything. Not the way of it, nor how long he’d been set to watch her. In all the twenty-six years since the day she’d been birthed, he’d kept her in his sight and safe from harm as best he could. But today wasn’t going to be a good day for her. Or him, for that matter. The woman was having a good life, he supposed. Good parents. A brother and a sister, both older than her, that weren’t aware of her, he thought. Sable had a good paying job, and she was wealthy. Not that a person would ever know that. Never flaunting her wealth nor what she did for a living, she lived like a pauper. Her parents, too, had a good deal of money, and they were very generous with it. Not that he knew any of them all that well. Just Lady James. Late last night, he’d been notified that he needed to go to his boss. Lady James had saved his life when she’d been younger than the miss was now, and she made him promise that, above all else, Sable would be safe.

That was all his instructions were regarding the babe, and that was all he’d ever found out over the decades. Lady James acknowledged him, but she didn’t speak when he entered the room. There were other people around, many of them relatives that Boo didn’t know but could smell the sameness about them. Not that it was any of his business who she had around, but he was curious all the same. He was glad now that he made sure that his lady Sable was sleeping when he’d left, as this looked like it was going to be a very long night. As soon as the others left her, Lady James invited him to have a seat on her hand. When she put him on the little pillow she’d made just for him, Boo settled down. Not touching the sweet treats that were laid before him until she did, Boo asked her about her health. When she took a chocolate cookie, one of his favorites too, he bit down on a portion of the one she’d been munching on. She ate and drank what she wanted and damn what people told her. Boo laughed when she ate a second cookie with a small glass of sherry.

They both knew she’d not die until she was ready. Not that she was immortal, but when she’d saved his life, then he had hers, she got a bit of his magic in her body and heart that made her live to be nearly three hundred now. Sable was the daughter that she’d had with this marriage. Sable and her brother Peter had been born twins, Sable the second child in the birth order. But almost as soon as she’d been cleaned up and dressed, she was whisked away and taken to the home she had grown up in. “You’ve been watching my daughter very well, Boo. I don’t know what I would have done had you not helped me along.” He told her that it was his pleasure to serve her. “Be that as it may, you have saved not just her life but mine as well. I wish to repay you for your help.” “I don’t need anything, my lady. The young miss doesn’t know that I’m about, so I forage into the things that she has around. Flowers are forever fresh in the house she now resides in. There is leftover tea that she leaves that I can have a drink from.” Lady James told him that Sable did indeed know he was about. “No. I’ve been very careful not to show myself around her. I haven’t bothered her in all these years.” “Nay, you have not. But she’s aware of you. I’ve been—Sable has my magic.

I thought as much when she was born to me. It’s the reason she was taken away so quickly and that my husband never knew of her nor the others. To keep her safe from people looking for her.” He said that no one bothered her. “They wouldn’t. She’s powerful, Boo. More so than I am. I don’t know how it was that she figured it out, but she has been using her magic, very little of it, since the day she turned two. I’m so very proud of her.” “I am as well. When she was off to higher education, I never once helped her with her exams. She didn’t need me to. Sable has won that lottery thing twice now and has invested well. I didn’t know what that meant until a few years ago. Nothing more than a toddler when she told her mother to use the numbers she picked out—she knew the correct numbers because of her magic, didn’t she?” Lady James—Shirley, as she’d begged him to call her all those years ago—said she knew her parents had needed the income. “So she told her what to play, and they won. Good girl.” “You didn’t notice her having magic? I suppose that was the way she wanted it. She is a good girl.

She didn’t tell her mother so much as she persuaded her to use the numbers.” He was very proud of Sable, but he was also ashamed that he’d not noticed it. He told Shirley once again that he was sorry. “There is no reason for you to be sorry, Boo. She never meant for you to notice, and you didn’t. However, you were there when she needed you most. When she’d been hurt. Once again, when she’d nearly been kidnapped. Yes, I know of those things and a great many more times that you kept her from being harmed. You did just what I asked you to do, and for that, I’m forever grateful to you. Now, let’s get to the reason I’ve called you here. I need for Sable to be brought here. It’s time.” “Time?” Shirley told him she must come home and inherit her estate. And that she must be moving on. “You can’t mean that you’re to die, my lady. Say that it is something else. I beg of you.” “She’s been found, Boo. They know she’s out there, and they’ve narrowed it down to just within miles of them finding her.” He asked who they were. “Men and women that would take her apart to see if they can find out what she is. They won’t, of course, but they’ll try it. For the sake of science, they’ll call it, but it will still be murder until she is here again, and I give her what I am. I’ve no idea what that would be, but I’m sure they’ll have some godawful name for it.

” “When would you like me to bring her here? Soon, I would think.” Shirley told him the sooner, the better. “I shall bring her here tonight.” “Good. I have several phone calls to make. I’ve been doing some research, and I do believe I’ve found the perfect people to care for her. Boo, you’ll stay with her, of course. She’ll still be in danger while she’s with these people.” He said he’d be honored. “You’ve been such a good friend and helper, Boo. I believe I was matched up with the perfect faerie when the lady of the earth sent you to me.” Boo made his way home and was surprised to find Sable awake. She looked directly at him and smiled. Boo went to the couch where she was sitting and asked her if she was all right. “I’m not sure what you mean by that. I’m not ill, if that’s it. I’m also not upset too much. You’ve been to see someone. Someone that is in need of me to go to them.” He told her it was her birth mother. “I don’t understand. I do know that the Parkers weren’t my parents when I was growing up. However, my birth mother, as far as I know, has had nothing to do with me.” “She has been keeping tabs on you since you were taken away after you came into this world.” Sable nodded but still looked confused. “Lady James is wanting to pass her magic on to you so that when people come to find you, you’ll be able to defend yourself.”

“My mother will die.” It wasn’t really a question, but he did nod at her. “So I’m going to meet my mother, and she’s going to give me something powerful, then die. What a great way to have a relationship with the one that gave you life. ‘Hello, Sable. It’s wonderful to meet you. By the way, here’s some magic and poof, I’m going to die.’ I’m not going.” “But you must.” She said she didn’t have to do anything she didn’t want to. It was then that Lady James appeared in the room. Neither of them said a word but looked at him. “I didn’t bring her here.” “I know that.” She looked at her mother. “What is it you wish, Lady James? I know someone that can help me keep safe while—” “They’re here. The women I wish for you to go to.” Sable stood up when two more people popped into the room. Boo bowed before the three of them, waiting for one of them to tell him that he could stand. “Boo, don’t be a nuisance. The men coming for my daughter are near. They—these women are more powerful than even I am. They said you’ve been found.” “So you’re pawning me off to someone else to raise? I don’t know if any of you realize this, but I’m a grown woman.” The first woman smiled and introduced herself and her sister to her.

“Is that supposed to mean something to me? That you’re Rain and Storm? It doesn’t, in the event, you’re going to ask me.” “Touch her now.” Just as her arm was pulled toward her mother, Sable felt something pound her in the chest. Whatever it was, it was making her bleed. Almost as soon as she thought she was going to die, the magic, or whatever power it was, took over her body. ~~


Garfield watched the woman lying on the bed. He’d been asked to come and talk
to her and see if she was his mate. She wasn’t. While that did sadden him a bit, he was
glad that she’d not been. She looked like a ball buster, and since he most assuredly
didn’t bust anything but numbers, he watched her body twitch and move with the
newfound power she’d been given. Boo entered the room via the window and sat on
the side of the bed.


“She’s not your mate, then,” Garfield told him she was not. “Sad that. She’d
make you a good mate, I think.”
“I think she’d be too much for me.” Boo said she’d be the perfect mate to anyone
she was mated to. “I don’t suppose you’ve been practicing this to say to me, have you? I
know she’d be a perfect fit in the family, but as for her being my mate, I think we’re all
right.”


Boo was telling him of the things that Sable could do. He wasn’t really paying
too much attention. The woman on the bed had taken all that. He couldn’t seem to take
his eyes off her. She was such a beautiful woman.
Sable. Such a pretty name, and it suited her with her long, sable-colored hair. Her
fingers were long and well-defined. Even her face looked like a carved goddess. She
was, in a word, gorgeous.


Reaching for her hand when it was twitching a great deal, he held it gently in his
own to stop her from hitting herself. She’d done it twice now, hit herself in the face
while moving around. As soon as he put her hand into his, his entire body seemed to be
touched by an electrical wire.


No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t release her hand. Even when she dug
her nails into his flesh, Garfield ached with whatever was happening to him. Whatever
was going on, two things hit him at once. She was indeed his mate, and she was
transferring power to him in great amounts. Then, everything went black.
Waking up, he realized he was in the bed with Sable. She was leaning on one
hand and staring down at him. Asking her if she was all right, she told him that she
supposed she was but hadn’t felt like this before, so she wasn’t entirely sure. Then she
asked him how he was.


“Like you, I don’t know what I’m supposed to feel like right now, so I’ll give you
that answer later.” Moving his head so he could look at her better, Garfield smiled at
her. She was even more beautiful with her eyes open. “I’ve held your hand before to
keep you safe. I don’t understand. I should have been able to sense that you were my
mate. Why did this time make me realize that you were my mate and that you’d do this
overpowering thing to me?”


“I had to hide from everyone while my body adjusted to the magic I have. I was
assuming I needed to hide from you as well.” Garfield told her that made sense. “My
mother died. The woman that gave birth to me. I don’t know that I saw her pass, but
she gave me this magic when she did. Why is there blood on my shirt?”
“You were shot from the window across the street from where you were staying.
But the magic kept you from dying and saved you. The people looking for you, I’m
assuming you don’t know who that would be any more than Boo did.” She said she
didn’t know, but she would find out. “Yes, I believe you will. My sisters-in-law, they’re
looking into it as well. They’re powerful as well.” Garfield’s eyes were fixated on her
mouth. His wolf wanting to claim his mate. “Will you kiss me?”


Sable’s face pinked up. “No. Not yet. We may be mates, but I don’t know you.”
He said he understood and he’d try to behave. “Back to what you said before about
your sisters-in-law. What makes them think they’ll have any more luck with finding
them than I did? I’ve known that someone has been looking for me for some time now,
and I’ve managed to stay off their radar. However, today threw me off guard.” Garfield
told her that her mother had been protecting her with Boo, but the men were closing in
on her location. That was why she’d needed to come to her parent’s home. “Yes, so she
could give me all that she had and die. I got that part,” she said sarcastically. “What I
don’t understand is why I was sent away in the first place.”


“That I do know the answer to. Two powerful beings cannot be in the same place
at the same time. You’re more powerful than your mother was, so when she came to see
you at the house you were at, the men knew where you were. Thus, it was imperative
that she give you what she was right away.” She nodded and looked at him. “You’re
very beautiful.”


“You should see my sister. Yes, I’m aware of them too. I have a brother and sister
that are out there that haven’t any idea I’m around. Or, I guess, care.” He told her that
her brother knew about her. “And? I’m assuming there is a reason that him knowing is
a part of this, whatever is happening to me.”


“I don’t know how he figured it out, but he has been bragging about you. Again,
I’m not sure why, but he thought it was funny in some way. These people who were
trying to find the magic you would get, they kidnapped your sister and knew it wasn’t
her magic. She was hurt, I guess, but I don’t have a lot of details.” He watched her as
she seemed to think on that for a moment. “May I ask you some questions?”
She wagged her finger at him. “I’m not ready to kiss you yet.

So if that’s not your
question, go ahead.” He laughed, and she glared at him. “I wasn’t joking around.”
“I know that. I just found it a little funny that you are not allowing me to kiss
you yet.” She frowned at him again. “What are you? Boo hasn’t any idea just so you
know. I’m assuming something powerful, but I don’t know what you are.”
“Unlucky?” She shrugged. “I don’t know either. I can do all this crazy shit that
keeps me in money. Not that I need all the money in the world, I guess, but my foster
parents had money problems from the moment I came to them. I guess before that even,
but I helped them out.” She explained about the lottery money. “After that, they
invested well, thanks to my being able to see what stocks and things were going to do
well, and I could persuade or make them invest.”


“I’m an investment broker. I, for the most part, do it for the family. Since we’ve
been around for a good long time, we’ve been able to put some money into accounts
that needed it when times were tough. Also, help out different charities when that was
needed.” Sable said she did the same thing. “I don’t know if you’re aware of this or not,
but you’re an immortal. A true one in which you cannot be killed. You can be hurt, but
you’ll never die from it.”


“I’m assuming I can heal quickly too.” He nodded. “All right. I’m ready to kiss
you now. But no funny business. I just need a kiss.”
“You need a hug too. I can feel your stress.” She said she was dealing with it. “I’ll
take you up on the kiss later if you would allow me to hold you. Your stress is making
my wolf a little nervous.”


“Too much going on right now for me to process. I can feel your wolf too. He is
antsy.” She laid her head on his chest and her hand on his belly. “I can feel him there. I
can hear him purring too. I had no idea that wolves purred.”
“He’s trying to lure you into sleep. You need it.” She yawned and said she did.
“Rest now, Sable, and we’ll talk more later. All right?”
Sable was asleep in a few minutes. Her body no longer twitched, but she did dig
her fingers into his belly a couple of times. Still, he held her. Holding her had the same
effect on him. Relaxing enough to sleep by her beating heart, Garfield joined her in
slumber.

Warren Perry’s Nest Release Blitz & Giveaway

Robin had been born a vampire, but when she failed to develop fangs at twenty-five, her family deemed her worthless and left her at the mercy of the vampire council to do with what they pleased. Being a slave was all she’d ever known.

Warren Justice was a very old and lonely vampire. He had been alone for so long he had pulled his affairs together and contemplated ending his existence until Hamish summoned him. He had intended to visit his old friend one last time to say goodbye.

When Warren met Hamish’s mate, Lander, the shock and power exchange they both received gave him a new lookout on life. And when Lander summoned the bookkeeper of the vampire records, he realized the woman cowering in the corner was his mate.

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Lander was good at her job. What she wasn’t good with was people, most people, in fact. Especially attornies who weren’t prepared when they cross-examined her as a witness. She didn’t care. She had work to do. Leaving the courthouse was the last thing she remembered when she woke up in the hospital.

Happy to have finally found his mate after all these centuries, Hamish, an ancient vampire, had been following her scent all morning. The scent led him to the courthouse, where he decided to wait until she came out. But shots rang out when Lander stepped out of the building. Hamish would have to move fast, or he would find and lose his mate at the same time.

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Prologue


Warren wandered around the rooms he’d been given while staying with Hamish
and Lander. It was a great room. Not at all feminine like he’d expected when Hamish
told him Lander had decorated it for him especially. The bathroom was done up well,
with lots of warm colors like the bedroom had. The windows in here, like the bedroom,
were covered in room-darkening curtains that made it so he could rest during the day if
he wished.
He hadn’t packed much. A laptop, some books he’d been reading, as well as
some paperwork he’d not gotten finished while he’d been at home. Smiling to himself
as he left the rooms, Warren wondered what his buddy would think about him owning
a blood bank. Not for himself—no, feeding for himself had never been a problem—but
for hospitals and other medical facilities that had a need for rare or even not-so-rare
blood.

Lander, he assumed it was her, was coming up the stairs as he was going toward
them. When she got to the top of them, she put out her hand in greeting. Taking it,
something with the touch of their hands blew them both backward and to the floor. His
last thought before he hit his head and passed out was that Hamish was going to kill
him if he hurt his mate.
When he woke, he was lying on his bed. Sitting up quickly, not sure what was
going on, he was told to lie back down by Hamish. He did as he’d been told because he
wasn’t sure how much longer he’d have been able to stay in that position. Hamish
asked him if he was all right.


“Never mind that. Is your mate all right?” He just grinned. “I’m assuming since
I’m still alive that I didn’t hurt her enough for you to want to kill me.”
“She had a nasty bump on her head, but it, like yours, has healed. Lander is
resting right now. Not because of the power exchange, but because she is newly turned
and needs to rest during the day.” Warren decided he was feeling well enough to sit up
now and cautiously did so. Feeling better, he moved to the chair beside Hamish.
“Lander told me that all she did was touch your hand in greeting, and the two of you
were blasted by something. I don’t know what you got, but she has a great deal more
power on some things than I do. Can you feel any differences?”
“Not yet. My mind is still processing the fact that a new vampire blasted me
across the hall.” They both laughed. “I honestly don’t know what happened. Did she
give anything to me? Am I the one that blasted us apart? Right now, I’m just grateful
she wasn’t hurt.”
“As am I. However, you’ll be happy to know she told me that if I touched you
with harm in my mind, she’d break off my fangs and stab me with them. Lander’s used
that one before. Every time she threatens me with it, I get more afraid. She’s a pistol, as
Grandda says.” Again they both laughed. Warren got up to stretch. Then before he
could put his arms down from the most wonderful stretch he’d had, he paused. “You
figured something out?”


“Yes. Lander isn’t sleeping right now but coming down the hall toward us. Your
grandda is on a construction site on the other side of town, giving the men working a
break by telling them stories. He knew they needed to step back a moment. Something
about the homeowner changing their mind several times a day about the house. A
woman, I’m sure is your sister, is on her computer, looking at her financial records.
She’s about broke, so you might want to talk to her about it. Colleen is being extorted
by someone in Virginia about her being a vampire. Their last name is Pfizer. She’s
paying them hush money, she calls it, so you’ll not find out.” Warren turned to his best
friend. “I’ve never been able to do that before. Especially with your sister, whom I’ve
never met. Lander is coming into the room now.”
The door opened, and there was Lander. She was staring at him like she was
trying to gauge him on some level. Warren asked her what she’d gotten from him,
knowing that was why she was here. He also realized at that moment that he couldn’t
read her mind. That scared him more than anything else.


“When I touch something, something as mundane as a hairbrush, I can tell not
only where it’s been, who the owner is, but what the person died from. I’ve never used
the brush set that was laid out, but I know now that it belonged to Hamish’s
grandmother, and she was killed by a human who had not meant to kill her. They’d
been friends.” Lander shivered when she put her hand on the chair he’d been sitting in.
“I want to toss this chair out as soon as possible. It has been used for obscene things that
I don’t care to discuss.”
Hamish touched his finger to the chair, and it disappeared.
Just like that, he did his mate’s bidding. And better yet, he believed her when she
said it had to go. Sitting on the edge of the bed, his chair now gone, Warren stood up
quickly because he didn’t want to think about what had happened on the mattress.
“You’re the only one other than the delivery people who have touched it. If it
makes you feel any better, it was sealed up when it arrived, and Hamish used his magic
to put it here in this room.” He told her it did. “I can find people. What I mean is I can
sense where they are and what they’re doing. I can also tell that you can do the same.
Have you touched anything in here?”


“I sat in the chair that is now gone.” She asked him to touch something in the
room. Then she suggested the framed art on the wall. Warren did so without hesitation.
“No. I don’t feel anything other than I can see that it’s been cleaned recently. Could that
be it?”
Warren touched several more things in the room without any kind of feelings
from it. When he asked if they could leave the room, the three of them did so without
saying a word. Entering the living room, he wanted to just think for a minute. Let his
mind wrap around what he was feeling at the moment.
“I came here to say my goodbyes to you, Hamish. I had it in my head that I was
too old and lonely to live out my days as a hermit. Then I get blasted across the hall by a
pretty woman, and I feel revived. Like? Well, like I’ve been given a purpose again. I
don’t know what that is, but I do feel that way.” Hamish told him he was happy for
them all then. “Yes, so am I. This thing, finding people, I’ve only just realized that while
I know what they’re doing and where they are, I can’t read their emotions with it. It’s
like I’ve been given some information, and what I do with it is up to me. Does that
make sense?”


“Yes. When I find bodies or cars, whatever I’m looking at, I can feel the last few
minutes of their lives. Like the man, I found just a few days ago. I knew he thought he
was pulling into a parking lot to enjoy his ice cream before it melted. When he hit the
water, he had no fear because he didn’t equate where he was with dying. I knew that he
enjoyed his few bites of ice cream before he hit the water, but I only know that because
I could see it in his mind. Not the emotions he’d have while enjoying it.”
Warren changed the subject about what had happened and told the couple what
else he’d been doing. Closing down some of his businesses was one of the things he’d
thought he’d regret now that he had a better outlook on life. But he didn’t, he told them.
“I can start fresh. Try new things. Honestly, it’s been a long time since I’ve
wanted to do anything more than just go from day to day.”

Lander asked him if he suffered from depression.
“I believe that for all single vampires, as well as any creature
that has lived as long as Hamish and I, depression is a constant battle. With me losing
my mate, too, that didn’t help. She was, much like you are to Hamish, my world. I miss
her less and less, but my heart still grieves for what I have lost.”
“I’m so sorry about that. But I am happy you’re here with us now and that you
will be for a long time. You will, correct?” He said he would, but he couldn’t live with
them. “And why the hell not? It’s not like we don’t have plenty of room here.”
“I think he’s telling us he needs his own space, love. Not that he doesn’t want to
hang out with us. As a single vampire, he’ll need space.” She didn’t seem to understand
but let it go. Hamish winked at him. “I actually have a home you might like. It’s not far
from here. And you’ll just take it because you told me about my sister.”
“What’s happening with Colleen?” Hamish told her, and Warren filled in the
details as he got them. “What are we going to do about it then? I’m sure you’ve been
thinking up a plan.”


“I have. But I’m going to talk to Colleen first. Details will be important in this
kind of situation, as this person might have more details than he’s telling my sister. Or,
he might not have anything at all and has targeted her for some reason.” Lander said he
had to die. “Yes, well, how about we table that one for now and wait on details?”
“Yes, all right. But we’re going to help her, right? I love her as much as you do,
and I don’t want her stressed.” Warren loved the little spit-fire woman. When she
turned to him with a smile, he felt his beast hiding in the shadows as if he were afraid of
her. “You, my dear friend, are going to help me out with a few projects I have going on
in my head. But first and foremost, I need answers to a great many questions. I’ve been
reading the book that Hamish’s grandma had, but there are things in there that I can do
that aren’t mentioned for a newbie. Do you guys really call newly made vampires a
newbie?”


“Honey, no offense, but I think an entire book could be written about you and
being newly changed. And if being called a newbie is something that bothers you? Then
I shall promise on my deceased wife’s heart that I’ll never call anyone that again.”
The rest of the afternoon into the evening was spent talking about anything and
everything. When Lander got a phone call, she left the room to go answer it. He’d never
bothered with a cell phone before as if anyone had wanted to contact him, and they’d
not met before that, he wasn’t in the mood to talk to them. But now—well, he wasn’t so
sure about a lot of things anymore.
The one thought that kept going around and around in his head was just how
strong Hamish was that he could turn a human into one of their kind, and she have
such amazing powers? Was he a leader? If not, he surely would make a good one. No
one would mess with him once they met his mate. Christ, she was amazing.



Warren liked the old building that he thought would make a good shop for him.
Long ago, he’d been a jewelry maker. The level of concentration kept his mind occupied
and not thinking about things that were better not thought of at all. He pulled out his
cell phone, a new addition to his life, and called the number on the “for rent” sign
hanging in the window. He burst out laughing when he contacted Hamish.
“Do you own everything around here?” Hamish told him about the building he
was looking at. “What have you done for improvements then? To me, it looks like it
could have been built yesterday but still has its old-time charm.”
“I had the stained glassed windows throughout the house repaired. There are
also transom windows of stained glass on both floors. The furnace is new, and so is the
roof. It had been slate, but I sold it all off in trade for the tin roof it has now. I guess the
installer’s wife is into crafty things.” Hamish asked him if he wanted it. “I’ll give it to

you just to get it off my back. I’ve owned it for some time, and since things have been
bad around here for a while, no one has the funds to rent it.”
“I can’t just take it from you,” Hamish asked him why not. “I’m not sure. I just
don’t want you to give me a house because you’re tired of paying taxes on it. That’s it,
isn’t it?”


“Some of it. However, it’s a nice place inside and out. There is ample parking in
the back for whatever you want to do with it. What do you want to do with it?” He told
him what he’d been thinking about doing. “In the basement, which is super nice with
walls and cable hookups, there are two tables that I can only assume were built in the
place. Then someone concreted them to the floor. Sturdy as fuck. And the tops of both
of them are steel and have electrical outlets all around them.”
“How do I get in?” He told him he was in town and would meet him there in a
few minutes. “Is Lander with you? I was worried about her all night last night.”
“She is with me and feeling better today. We’ve been scouting out buildings she
can use for her dad’s legacy.” The car pulled into the back lot, and Warren went around
to meet them. Lander did look better today. “We’ve found three buildings we are
thinking of using. The one we’ll more than likely use is the one just outside of town.
That way, the city won’t have too much to bitch about when we’re having things
delivered.”


“I’ve been looking for blankets and things for a kit for people in transit, with
things like deodorants and shaving kits. Soap too.” Warren told Lander if she needed
help packing them up, he’d gladly help. “Thank you. I might take you up on that. Also,
I’m looking for a doctor and a psychiatrist. If you know of anyone that would be on
board with this project, let me know. I know you were a doctor at some time in your
life, Hamish told me, but I’m not hinting that you should do it. I don’t want anyone
helping unless they’re doing it because they want to and not because they think they
have to. Does that make sense?”


“Yes. And I know of a psychiatrist that might be willing to come here. He’s not a
vampire but a bear shifter. His name is Calhoun Meyer. There is also a human that
might work out for you by the name of Brad Kirk. Nice man. He’s an ancient that has
been around for more than five hundred years. Someone gifted him immortality for
saving a life. If he has more magic than that, I don’t know what it might be.” Lander
kissed him on the cheek. “Not that I don’t mind, but what was that for?”
“For not telling me you’d do it when I know you want this building for
something else altogether. Good for you. I love you, Warren.” He was embarrassed.
Rather than digging himself in deeper with his embarrassment, he told her what his
plans were. “Now, let’s go see about getting this home in your name so you can make
beautiful jewelry that will be on every beautiful woman in the world.”
When she walked off and opened the door to the building, Warren looked at
Hamish. He didn’t look pissy because his mate had kissed him. More like he was
resigned to the fact that she was going to do it no matter what he asked her not to do.
Warren wondered if he’d asked her not to touch other males. He decided he really
didn’t want to know.


“You’ll take the building if for no other reason than I need you to. Not for the
taxes, but because you’ve made Lander so happy about this. Helping you.” Warren told
him he’d make the first piece of jewelry for her. “You do that, and she’ll be sobbing
about how lovely it is and who gave it to her.”
They both laughed and entered the large building. The first thing he saw was the
stained glass window at the side of the building in what appeared to be a parlor. The
fireplace in there was marble, something he had in his home in Spain. He was already
in love with the place.
The tour of the house was fun. Lander told him what he should use the extra
rooms for on the main floor. It looked to him like someone had added another wing on
the house that was one floor. It appeared to have been used as a large walk-in pantry.
He told her he was going to use it as a darkroom so he could rest safely during the
hottest part of the day.


“Brilliant. I have rooms like that now too. Only we used darkening curtains. It’s
amazing to me how much light they cut out and still look pretty in a room.”
She and Hamish went to the kitchen to let him go to the basement. He knew he’d
rarely use the kitchen area, but he was going to have it updated. Appearances were
everything when you didn’t trust humans all that much.
The tables that Hamish had told him about were perfect in every way for what
he’d use them for. One of them was waist level so he could sit while using it. The other
was about four feet from the floor and the perfect height for him to stand up and work
on. He was also happy to see that the plugs on the table were ones that could take
machinery plugged into them and not have a problem.
He unearthed a kiln at the corner of the building outdoors. At some point in his
life, he’d been a potter as well. This kiln, used for raku firings, was going to come in
handy for other projects he had in mind.


Warren found boxes of clay that weren’t dried out, as well as an entire shelf of
glazes in the basement. His creative juices were flowing now, and he wanted to rush the
couple off so he could have some fun.
Just as he was headed up the open stairs, he saw something under them. Going
back there, being careful of what it might be, he found a safe.
Calling down Hamish and Lander, he showed them what he’d found, then asked
Hamish if he’d noticed it before. After telling him, no, but it looked as if it had been
there for some time, they moved all the debris off and around it. They all agreed it
hadn’t just been put in. When Lander put her hand on the six by at least ten safe, she
smiled at him.


“The combination is twelve right, twenty-five left, and sixteen right.” Shaking his
head, he opened the safe on the first try. Inside of it was not just the combination but a
list of things that had been put in it and taken out with the dates. “It looks like the dates
on some of those things are a couple hundred years old. I wonder why he did that.”
“Could be that he was keeping track of things so he’d not think something was
missing. If he took it out and wrote it down, then when he came back to it, he’d know it
wasn’t supposed to be in there. Same with the things he put in here.” Warren pulled out
the first leather sack and laid it on the floor. “If you’d be so kind as to open this for me
because you made it so easy for me to get into.”


Lander dumped the bag onto the shorter table. He was glad he’d sat down in one
of the chairs that had been around the table, or he might well have fallen. Touching his
finger to the large diamond, he couldn’t believe what a find this was. Hamish pulled the
other nine bags out and dumped them on the table in separate piles.
There were yellow diamonds, blue ones, as well as sapphires, opals, and rubies.
Two bags of emeralds that were unpolished like the rest of them were. The last bag held
an assortment of stones. Tiger’s eye, some little pebbles that had been polished to a high
sheen that showed the colors off brilliantly.


“I can’t take this. The house belongs to you, Hamish. Surely you know this is
worth millions.” Lander picked up the tiger’s eye stone and held it tightly in her hand
while Hamish said it was Warren’s. “No. I won’t accept this. It’s entirely too much. You
have to take these bags of gems, or we don’t have a deal on any of it.”
“The man that put these in here had a lovely little shop in the parlor of this
house. He would work nightly on things and go to work in the morning to go to estate
sales, household sales, and such. Most of the time, these items were in jewelry boxes
that had a great deal of junk gems mixed in with it. His name was Clarence Brown. I
think you’ve heard of him?” Warren and Hamish both nodded. “He made a living
going to different places, and since he never spent anything more than a few dollars for
things, he was never thought of as a man who had millions of dollars’ worth of gems in
his workshop.”


“He died some time ago. I remember reading about it in the newspaper, saying
how he’d died a pauper. Little did anyone know he was a millionaire several times
over.” Lander told him that was right. “So none of this is stolen? He paid for it all?”
“Oh yes. There were times he thought of it as stolen goods for as little as he paid
for it. However, he used the cash he’d made from his jewelry, which was the reason
they thought him broke, to put food on the table of a great many people without them
ever knowing who it was that helped them. Mr. Brown had no children—his wife died
when they were newly married. He had no one to carry on his work, and I find that the
saddest story I’ve ever heard. So if you don’t take these gems and stones and carry on
the things that this man did, then I’m going to have to hurt you. You know I can,
Warren. This man gave his all to help others. You need to do the same with the things
he left for you to find.”


“Lander, I love you. So much.” She told Warren she dearly loved him too. “All
right. I’ll do it. But you have to pick out a stone so I can make you something beautiful
for your help.” She handed him the tiger’s eye, telling him what she wanted. “It would
be a lovely necklace, but it wouldn’t be worthy of you, I’m afraid.”
“That was the first stone he found. The first one he polished. Not by machine but
with his hands and tools. I want you to make me a necklace fitting of the man who took
the time to do that. Please?”


He nodded. Warren didn’t think he’d ever get used to someone like Lander. She
was the most special person he’d ever known in all his life.
As they were bagging the items up and putting them back into the bags, each one
he touched, he could almost see how it would look as a piece of jewelry. Excitement
raced over his skin, and he was wanting to get started. However, he needed to get some
equipment out of storage and also gather up things like wires and such to make things
work for him.


After doing a good search of the basement, they headed to the shed out back.
There was where he found all the equipment that had been used by Mr. Brown. Most of
it wasn’t viable anymore, and it was covered with rust. But he did find a great deal of
wire that he’d need, as well as all the polishing rags the man had worn down to nearly
nothing.


“I’m going to enjoy this,” Hamish told him he could tell. “I don’t know what I’ll
do with the rest of the house, but I’m thinking it might make a good shop for high-end
things. It might not sell well around here, but I’ll make sure I have a good online
presence too. I’m sure I have enough junk at my home that I could easily bring here
with the help of you guys. Also, before I forget again to tell you.” Warren laughed when
he thought about what he’d done. “I purchased the candy bars the kids are selling twice
yesterday and donated them back to them. I bet you guys are helping them too.”
Lander told him how they were going to fly them out there and put them up in a
hotel for an extra couple of days. Every kid should experience New York at least once at
Christmas time. Hamish said he was going too but as a shopper. He was taking Lander
for her first visit.


“I might join you if you’d not mind,” Lander told him that would be wonderful.
“Maybe by then, I’ll have my head out of my ass and working again. I didn’t realize
how much I needed this.”
As they were leaving the house, a car pulled into the driveway. As soon as the
woman got out of the car, he knew that this was Colleen, Hamish’s sister. She looked
like him enough to know they were related, but she didn’t look manly. She was
beautiful.


“Hello. You must be Warren. I’ve heard about you all my life.” He put out his
hand to shake hers. “My goodness, you’re handsome, aren’t you?”
Then they touched

Dover Xavier’s Hatchlings Release Blitz and Giveaway

Toby Deaver had been searching for George Manning for quite some time. The teapot had spoken to her and made it quite clear that she needed to find George. Loading up her family, her grannie, and her son, Shawn, into the car, they headed to the small town in Ohio.

George had already discovered the gem beneath the clay, but he and Imp weren’t quite sure what Toby’s involvement might be and were taken aback when Toby announced that she knew they weren’t human. Imp sensed that the boy, Shawn, wasn’t human either.

Although welcomed by the family, Toby felt she had worn out their welcome and wanted to return home to find a much-needed job. But when Shawn sensed a cloaked assassin, Toby reached out to the Mannings for help. Dover, a Manning she had yet to meet, responded to her plea for help. And when an older woman at the market wrapped her arms around Dover’s neck for an affectionate hug, Toby had never felt such a violent, jealous rage consume her.

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Finn Manning had so much on his plate, he wasn’t sure which end was up. He’d been there six months, and the pile of work on his desk hadn’t diminished by one sheet of paper. None of the construction projects the family had lent the money for had even been started. The foreman was a bully, and Finn had had enough.

Rachel Merkel had literally felt the earth move from beneath her feet. The plates she had been stacking at the restaurant crashed around her when she hit the floor. Her sister-in-law Sandra, instead of being concerned, threatened to fire her. Rachel was wondering how that worked, considering she owned the majority share in the restaurant, but instead of arguing with her, she clocked out and went home.

After a heated argument with her brother, Chad, about Sandra, Rachel quit to keep the peace. Then, Rachel felt the earth move again. This time she was sick with it.

Finn had felt it too through an unseen connection and came to Rachel’s rescue. He didn’t know the woman, but he had an overwhelming need to help her. As soon as he caught her scent, he knew what she was to him.

Rachel, not entirely human herself, could sense Finn was a dragon, and she felt the connection when he did. What she wasn’t sure about was what all came with it—the Mannings—all the parents, brothers, aunts, and uncles—it was overwhelming….

Pembroke Black had always had a lot on her plate. As a child, she could not tolerate her father, and Pem had moved in with her grandparents when her mother died. When she was old enough to move out, she joined the Army and served the front lines as a doctor. Stitching people up was what she did best. Coping with her own emotions was another story—Pem found little joy in this world.

When Pem’s grandda passed away, Theo Manning was there to help Pem’s grandma any way he could. That included keeping grandma safe. He had no idea until he met Pem that she was his mate. Theo wanted to protect her, too, from what was to come. Pem only had to touch his hand to receive the magic coming to her, but neither had any idea how much magic would flow between them.

Pem had always had her emotions take her under at times, but this was nothing like that. She was happy. She felt better than she had in years. Pem only hoped that Theo would not rush her. There was just too much going on for her to deal with a pushy man.

Jamie Darkhouse had inherited the large historical house when her parents had died. She had always hated living there and joined the Army to get away from the house and her parents. But when her parents died, she had things to take care of. So returning home seemed her best option. With the others gone, the house had lost the oppressive feeling, and she was now happy being home.
Jamie and Pem were good friends, and the Mannings were more than ready to accept Jamie into the family even if she hadn’t been Milo’s mate.
Milo Manning wasn’t a dragon shifter like four of his brothers. Yet, he wasn’t entirely human either. Immortal and magical, he still fit right in with the rest of his shifter brothers and large extended family. The Mannings were a large and well-respected family.
It only took moments for Milo to confirm they were mates, and Milo moved into the old house with her. Each discovering the new magic that came to them daily. What came to them as a shock, though, had Milo’s mother, Cindi, rolling with laughter. Neither Milo nor Jamie found seeing and talking to the dead the least bit funny.

Imp had been alone in this world for so long she had forgotten what she was. It only took a little nudge from Winnie for her memory to come flooding back. She was a powerful earth fae and one of only three of her kind. She missed her siblings terribly, but it was too dangerous for the world for them to be in the same place. Imp was tired of being alone.

As soon as Hudson Manning realized who Imp was, the rest of the Mannings knew as well. Imp had created the first dragons. Cooper, the king of dragons, wanted to do something, anything, to repay her. Imp, however, didn’t want to hear any more about it and was getting pissy when he wouldn’t let the subject drop.

George knew almost immediately that Imp was his mate, but convincing the stubborn woman would take a little work. When the two come together, their combined magic will be more powerful than any of them could ever imagine…

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Theodore https://amzn.to/36PYTMV
Milo https://amzn.to/2Uupsnk
George https://amzn.to/3BOhTtk


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Happy Reading,

Prologue


Long ago, at a time when all creatures roamed the earth as only their true self. Working with and helping humans in whatever way they could. Where magic was celebrated. And dragons darkened the skies every day. It was then man figured out there was magic in the dragons and hunted them to almost extinction. “I’m afraid there is no hope for us.” No one made a sound as their leader continued. “Once the humans found out about us and what we can do for them dead, we have been doomed. I’m so terribly sorry.” Coop looked around the room. There were so few of them now he could easily count them. When he had been younger, thousands of years ago, there would not be enough room for all of them to share this room.

Now they were down to having a quarter of them share the space because so many, his own wife included, had been murdered so needlessly. Coop was saddened by it all. Turning to leave the large cave, he was stopped by his brother, Xavier. “The boys, they are well?” He nodded and smiled. Coop felt it all the way to his heart. A place had been dead for so long, it seemed. “You have the spell? You are going to use it on them? I should so wish I had thought of this before my own family was taken from me, Coop. You are a brave man and a good father.” “Thank you. And I shall use it tonight. It is the only way to save them.

” Xavier nodded his own heart heavy with the losses they had suffered. “You know I would have shared should I have had it sooner. I am so sorry, brother. All of my heart, it’s sorry for you.” “I know that. I do. But they are all gone now. My other half, my children. Killed for things are not fair to our kind.” Coop knew all too well. “Aria was a good woman, Coop. A good woman and mother to your sons. She will be missed forever.” “Aye, in my heart and of my sons.” Xavier stood there for several seconds, and Coop told him he must go. “They’re waiting for word on what is to happen with us all.” “One more thing, if you please. It will not take but a second. I have left them all I have. It is where you keep them hidden away, the boys. Deep within the cave, it’s all there.” Coop asked him what he meant.

“I cannot go on, brother. I cannot. There is too much grief in my heart for me to live. I have left my things for them there. They might survive this; with the magic, you have to give to them. And if so, they’ll need more than you have to help them.” “Xavier, please, you mustn’t do this. They’ll miss you as much as I.” Xavier nodded and said it had begun. “You can come and stay with us. You’ll live with us in the caves.” “Nay. I cannot. I must go. Just tell them I love them. With all of my heart.” There would be no stopping him once his heart was made up, Coop knew this, but it made his heart no less full for it. “Goodbye, my brother. Take care you are not caught by the humans.”

Coop made his way back to his hidden cave and sat before the fire. The boys, he knew, were resting, their bodies getting stronger daily with their age. Soon they would be as big as him, a dragon of worth and size. When his eldest son came to him, his eyes full of fear, Coop knew it was well past time he did what he had been practicing. The magic would keep them safe. Gathering his sons, six of them of varying shades of blues and greens, he asked them to have a seat. He had a story to tell them. It was not a story, not truly, but a tale that would hopefully keep them safe. “A witch told me once of great magic only few can do. It takes a loving heart and a strong dragon to make it work.

I have asked her, and she has told me how to make it so. In this magic, it will keep you all safe from the humans.” They nodded, each of them knowing it was a human blade that took the life of their dear mother. “I will perform this upon you, each of you, at the same time and give you some magic you will use when you need it. This magic, strong and powerful magic, will let you roam with the humans, and they’ll not know your true self is just below your flesh.” “You mean we’ll be humans as well?” He nodded, then shook his head at Cooper, his oldest. “I don’t understand, father. Will you explain?” “Yes. The magic I will give you will let you change into your true self when you are alone.

But when you are out in the world, you will need to be a human. A man.” Cooper looked at his brothers and then back at him as he continued. “With this magic, I will also give you a gift. Something you will need to keep yourself safe should they find out. A stronger armor than any other dragon before you as well as the same immortality you have now, as man or dragon.” Hudson stared at him for long moments. He was the thinker, and if he could think of a reason for this not to work, he would voice it loudly. He was much like his mother in that. She would be the first to say when she did or did not like something. And the first to say the plan was perfect. He only hoped she would have approved of this. “I think you are very smart, father. To try and keep us safe. But I can only think this will not work for you. Or is your plan?” The boy was much too smart, Coop thought. “If you change us, who will change you?”

“There will be no one to change me, son. I will… It is my wish to join your mother in this earth.” He watched them, seeing if they understood the love he had lost when she had been murdered. “Giving you this magic, it will be something I can tell her I’ve done for her sons. You know as well as I that she loved you more than anything on this earth, including herself.” “She died saving us.” Coop nodded at Lincoln. “I’m not happy you’re going to die, father, but I understand wanting to be with mother. I miss her more every day.” “As do I.” He looked at his sons, all of them growing into dragons of worth. “I must have an agreement from you all. Even if one of you does not want this, then it will not work. I would say you should think on this hard. For once, I have given this to you, there will be no going back.”

“I wish to have it.” He knew Cooper would be the first. Not that he did not love his father, but Cooper would see things in a way most would not. To not have this done would mean a certain death for them all. Dragons were too valuable dead not to be hunted for all time. “I will do whatever it takes to make sure you are proud of me as well.” “I am already, Cooper. Forever.” The others nodded too. They were ready for this as much as he was dreading it. Because once he started the process of changing his sons into men, then he would begin to die. It would take all he was to change them. Standing up, spreading his wings out behind him, Coop told them about the things their uncle had left them. They knew where the family jewels were, the things their mother had left them as well. Once they were standing, their bodies strong and healthy, he felt his heart swell and break for what he was about to do.

“I, Cooper Manning, of the Manning Dragons of the earth, give to my sons, Cooper, Hudson, Lincoln, Lucas, Tristan, and Xavier, all I am. Each of you will take a part of the earth with you when you are converted. The part of you that is unique in all ways will be strengthened and enhanced. You will be immortal, forever, and those you take to your heart will be as well.” His sons bowed before him when he told them to. He said the words over them that would change them into men. Coop could feel his body shutting down, his heart beating a little less. But he had one more thing he wished to bless them with and held himself upright to give it from his own dying heart. “One day, true love will come to you. And you will have more than you have ever known. It will fill you in ways you cannot ever imagine. Love will be yours for all times. For only then will you become a true dragon, a Manning Dragon.”

~*~ Cooper sat with his brothers while their father lay dying. His heart was weak from what he had done, and it was tearing him apart. Father was weak, yes, but he continued to tell them tales of their mother, of their adventures when they were only small dragons. They were going to be alone soon; their father was so close to joining their mother that it hurt Cooper in ways he had not expected. “What shall we do with his body?” Cooper looked at Tristan and asked him what he meant. “He will not be able to lie here. If the humans were to find him, they will surely cut him up into pieces. I do not want that for him. We were never able to bury mother in the proper way after what they did to her.” “We could burn his body.”

Cooper wondered how it would work when Hudson continued. “His scales will be worthless to them should they come upon his body. The magic he held within him also will be useless to them. He will be nothing more than a carcass. They’ll leave alone.” Burn his body. It was something to think about. But he did not want to, not while he was still breathing, his body still alive. When he laid his head upon his father’s chest, hearing his heart beating slower and slower, Cooper wondered what his father would think if he knew the magic he had given them had not worked. They were all still as dragons.

“He gave his life to keep us safe. But it did not work.” No one said anything to him as they each watched their father. “Dragons such as we are, we’ll be hunted and killed by the humans. There is nothing we can do but wait for them.” “We will survive if we stay here.” Cooper told Xavier they would have to leave here eventually. “To feed and to fly, yes. But perhaps we could do it only at night. To keep to the skies and not let them see us.” “They know we are about and will have spies out looking for our lairs. We will have to kill any man should he come for us, and still, we will not be safe. We are, after all, dragons who have a great deal of magic.” Cooper stopped breathing. Cooper did not hear his father’s heart and knew it was at an end. He was quiet for a bit longer, waiting, hoping for just one more beat.

One more sound would mean he was still alive. But there was nothing. Their father was dead. Sitting up, he told them he had passed this world into the next. None of them had ever seen a dragon die before. Their mother had been dead when they found her. Each dragon they had come upon when they were out had been dead long before they found them. Their bodies were stripped of every part, so they resembled less of a dragon than just a pile of bones. Their scales were used for roofs for their homes and for shields. The very meat of them was roasted and stored away so it could be used for medicines and potions. Hearts were cut up and dried, then ground into a powder to use for other things the humans would use to keep them from sickness, as well as magic to have a grand garden and trees heavy with fruit.

The only part that would be left was the bones, and sometimes even those were carried off and used for something. Cooper hated all humans. “We will do as suggested by Hudson. It is the only assured way we can—” Before he could finish, he felt the stirring of the earth. It shook so hard it knocked each of them off their feet. As they lay there, terrified someone was coming for them, their father appeared before them. His body was still aground. But instead of dark in death, he was brilliant in light. Faeries, thousands upon thousands of faeries, seemed to be covering him. Before Cooper could tell them to stop, to leave him alone, father spoke. “I love you, my sons.” Each of them nodded. Fear was almost something he could touch. “I will now and forever join my true love, your mother. I must warn you when you find your other half, and you will, you will have to be careful of the slayers.

They will know what you have found by the magic you both will share. My sons, you will leave this place and take your place among men. Becoming someone I will be proud of.” “Father, the magic didn’t work. We’re still a dragon.” Cooper felt shameful to say a thing to his father. To tell him his sacrifice had not worked. “We will be hunted and killed.” “Nay, you only need to think of being your other half. Becoming a man is simple. The same when you wish to be your true self.” Cooper was not sure what he meant, but his father continued before he could ask. “Go, now before men come here. The magic to

hide me will draw them here. Be safe, my sons, and know I love you more than I do any other creature on this place.” Cooper stood then. The faerie was still working, taking the body of his father apart. But as he watched, he could see they were not doing anything but preserving his body. Faerie ropes were all around him, and strings of magic were wrapped around him like a cocoon. It made him invisible to all. As Cooper stood there, his brothers beside him, he knew, like him, they mourned the loss of yet another parent. “You are the eldest?” He nodded to the faerie when she asked. “We have a gift for you. For all of you, but you will receive the most. Your father was a great man, your mother a queen among her people. We wish to bestow upon you all your father had.” “My brothers, they will need it as well. I should like to share.” She smiled at him and bowed. “What have you done with his body?”

“He is being prepared to be moved. We will make a grand garden upon him. Flowers will be there for all to see, but only few will know a dragon is there with his other half, his love.” He nodded. It was as it should be. “You will take this gift? You will share, but as I said, you will get more than the others.” “I don’t care. Please, just do what you must so we can hide.” She nodded again and touched her fingers, small, tiny ones, to his forehead. Then she did the same to the others before coming back to him. “It is done? You have shared it with us?” “I have, Lord Cooper. But you must leave here now. There are humans coming. The magic we used to do this thing has given them cause to come here.” He nodded and looked at the ground where their father had been. “He is safe. Just as your mother is now. Go before they find you here and murder you as well.” He thanked her for her help and left. The exit from this part of the cave was hidden so well that only they knew about it.

As they made their way into the night, he thought of the human inside of him, and the pain of it took his breath away. In seconds, he was down on his knees. Whatever was happening, he was surely going to die. “You’re a man.” He looked up at his brothers as they began to transfer to one themselves. “We’ll be safe now, all of us. We’ll be humans for them until we can find a place where we can be ourselves.” “I don’t think that’s ever going to happen again.” Hudson nodded and held his head tightly as he did so. “We will need to train ourselves in their ways.

Become what they are. But never monsters.” “No, never.” They made their way to a building; any would do for now. Hudson, like him, was staggering a little, but they were getting stronger as they moved. He turned to look at him as they were settling into the empty shell of a house. “We will need to buy things, houses, and such.” “Yes. But tomorrow. I am too tired to think beyond how much we have lost.” Hudson and the others agreed. “When the humans are gone from our cave, we’ll go and find what father was telling us about earlier, about the wealth will keep us safe.” “I only hope there is a great deal of it. I don’t know how to work nor drive.” Cooper told Xavier, the youngest brother, they would soon learn. “I hope so. I hope so.”

He did as well. It was going to be hard enough for them to learn to eat and dress like them, much less get around. Cooper hoped this worked. For he was as afraid as he had ever been in his life. ~*~ After a time, thousands of years, each of the dragons turned into men and forged their way into a world that was so different than the one they had been born into. It seemed a different planet. But survive, they did. Having their mates come to them, children born to all of them, gave them hope. A small and fragile thing after such hardships they were born to. Cooper became, as his father had been before him, the king of dragons. His mate, Carson, is their queen. It had been and still is a time for celebration.

To this day, they commemorate often and hard at each new birth of the dragons turned men and women. The others, his brothers, prospered too. Finding their other half, making their magic stronger for having their love. They worked hard to keep everyone safe and well-fed. Humans or other dragons. No one, not anyone in need, would have ever been turned away from their help. The Manning Dragons, true to their father and mother, became the most powerful dragons ever born. Of the six sons, Xavier’s sons, four hatchlings, and two humans moved far away to be the next generation of Manning dragons who would open their hearts and doors for all creatures. Even the sons of their hearts, the two human-born men carried a powerful magic. They used it with their brothers to help as many people as possible, humans and dragons alike, to live in the ever-changing world. To help them not only succeed but to perhaps help someone else when they needed it. These boys, now men, have stories to tell.

Martin Hamilton Berkley’s Bastards Release Blitz and giveaway

Gracie Jefferies had just about enough of men in general. Starting with her lazy and demanding general manager and ending with Caleb Anderson taking over and treating her like she can’t fend for herself. She was a grown assed woman, for Christ’s sake. As far as she was concerned, that man was off his rocker.

Martin Hamilton was staying with his half-brother, Caleb. Everything going on in the house all the time was just too much chaos. Martin liked it, calm and quiet, so he decided to get out of the house for a bit to calm his thoughts.

The woman charging his way was anything but calm, but for some reason, Martin loved her spark and fire. This was one woman he wanted to get to know better….

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Caleb Anderson just lost his mother to cancer. He had never known his father, Howard Berkley, now deceased as well. Her final wishes were for Caleb to deliver a letter of her passing to her estranged parents, grandparents that he’d never met and to find the other five boys sired by Berkley. Caleb would do anything he could to honor her wishes.Tabby Tillman had had enough of the Andersons. She was tired of running the company and their lazy son Shep taking all the credit and bonuses. Just pay her for her overtime and vacation, and she was out of there.
Caleb was impressed with Tabby. The woman didn’t curb her opinions, and he liked that about her. Moving to be closer to her was something he didn’t think twice about. A change of scenery would be just what he needed.

Yasmine Dennis was doing her best to make it on her own. She’d been blind since she was seven and had done rather well for herself despite her disability. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time resulted in a hospital stay, and a childhood friend, Caleb Anderson, came to her rescue.

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Prologue


Martin put his hands under his legs. Trying to maintain a distance wasn’t going to work, he realized when the kids came and stood in front of him. He’d been just about ready to go out on the deck—a little at a time, his therapist told him—but they started coming in. The little girl, he didn’t know their names, just then got up on the couch with him and leaned close and laid her head on his shoulder. Martin was ready to leap up and run when she spoke to the other children. “You remember that kid that was jumpy all the time?” They nodded, though he doubted the youngest had any idea what she was talking about. “You remember that they had to take him away one night? On account’a him screaming all night?” “Yeah, he wasn’t right in the head.” The little girl told the speaker to hush and to behave. “I didn’t mean it in a bad way, Carol, but he was messed up in the head on account’a the drugs that his mom and dad gave him. Did someone give this man drugs?” “No, they didn’t. I’m not good around people.” The little boy told him they were kids, not people. “Why would you think that makes any difference? I mean, you’re still a person, right?” “I guess so. But we won’t ever hurt you none.” Martin said he wasn’t worried about them hurting him rather than the other way around. “You won’t hurt us either, Mr. Hamilton.

You’re hurting in a place that needs to be fixed. Am I right?” “Something like that. I was working one day and had a nervous breakdown. I couldn’t take it any longer and decided to end my life.” He’d not even told Caleb that when he’d asked him about his health. When the little girl pulled his hand out from under his leg, Martin let them see the scars there. She ran her little finger over the fresh scar, and Martin could feel some kind of kid magic coming from her. “I let my job nearly kill me. I should have paid attention to my mind and body, but I thought I was above all that. I thought it would just go away. But all it did was make me sicker and sicker.” The kids sat on the floor except for the little girl. Martin didn’t know why he was able to talk to these children. He’d already told them more than he had anyone before. By degrees, he felt his body begin to relax, his mind clear of the need to take flight.

“My mom did that. Cut up herself in the bathtub one day while I was at school.” Martin told the little boy he was sorry for his loss. “My name is Shawn. I was seeing a doctor after my mom died, and I found her lying there. Until my dad thought I was too much of a burden for him. He got himself a new wife, too, who didn’t want me around. But my mom, she was good to me. Made me a nice cake for my birthday. My doctor told my dad I was way more depressed than he was and that I needed to keep seeing someone about it. These kids here, they helped me.” “My mom is gone too. Cancer.” The kids all told him they were sorry. “Thank you for that. I’m wondering if that had a little to do with my breakdown.”

“Yeah, everything does.” The little girl next to him told him her name was Maddy. “Mine and Mikey’s mom sold us off to the home we was at. Yasmine and Joey are going to adopt us all if there isn’t anyone looking for the others. But Yasmine is my aunt on account’a her being our mom’s sister. She’s dead too, our mom, though I don’t know nothing about her.” He’d known that too, of course, but hearing the accounting of it was…Martin didn’t know, but he thought it was charming in a way. Less harsh than thinking about what he’d been told about Jasmine Dennis. It wasn’t long before they had him adjusting his seating, so he had two kids on either side of him. George was in his lap snoozing, and the other four were talking around him. Martin thought this was the best he’d felt in a good long time. Just them talking around him and not screaming and yelling at people. He looked up when he heard someone whisper his name. It was Yasmine. Apparently, at some point, the kids had wandered off, and he’d been snoozing himself. “Are you all right?” He told her he’d only just been thinking. “I’ve been feeling the same sort of special magic they can give off. Even George has his own type of magic.”

He watched her move to the other couch. She sat in the middle, directly across from him. Laughing just a little, she smiled and asked him if she’d done something stupid again. “I doubt anyone would think anything you did was stupid, Yasmine. You’re much too beautiful for that. I was just admiring how you get around in the house. And when you sat across from me, I thought for sure that I’d been fibbed to about your blindness.” She thanked him for not calling her a cripple or handicapped. “I’m assuming from what I heard about your sister, that’s who called you that.” “Yes, it was her. A lot of other people too, but my sister knew better. I only told her several times a day.” She didn’t elaborate, so he didn’t pry. “You seem really relaxed right now. So I don’t want to tense you up by asking the wrong questions.

I’m assuming you believe that you’re related to my husband and Caleb now. What are your plans if you have thought them through?” “I’ve not. Not really. I have a home back in Tennessee. There are a great many memories there. While here, believe it or not, I’ve realized that they weren’t all good ones either. My mom was a great person, but she was bitter too. Not just for having to raise me without help, but about everything. She was unhappy a great deal of the time. But I loved her.” Yasmine told him that, of course, he did. “Not that she made it easy for me. Mom showed me how to live on my own. How to deal with overdue collection calls and mail. Just trash them until it was going to be shut off or taken away. Food from the kitchen was hit or miss. Mostly the missing part. But she did love me too. And told me that every day.” “I plan to do that with the others too. Tell them how much I love them. How proud I am about something they’ve done. I’ve never been a mom before and have very little to go by as a role model. I’m going to wing it, as I’ve heard Ed say on occasion.” He laughed, another thing he’d missed doing since he’d been stressed. “What is it you want to do with your life now that you’re here?

The world is open for you. I’ve only just discovered, now that there is no pressure on me to work, I enjoy my job a good deal more.” “I used to be a stockbroker. I never really liked it, not even at the beginning. It paid well, and I was good at it. If push came to shove, I’d rather live on the streets than to have to go back to something like that.” He thought about her question and what she’d said about her own job. “I’d like something like that. Something I could do and just be able to enjoy. One of the things I used to do was grow plants. Just little things like tomatoes and lettuce. It supplemented our food at home, and I could spend hours out in the sunshine. I even got to where I was growing little things in the house.” “I have plants in my office. When I’m needing something to bring me out of my thoughts, I just need to reach over and touch them. Joey got me a couple of herbs, too, that I can smell. It’s lovely. Why don’t you do that for a living?” He asked her what she meant. “I’m fairly certain there is a need for a greenhouse around here. I know there used to be one. If I were to ask, I’m betting Caleb might even own the building.” “I don’t know that I’m ready to embark on something like that.” She stood up, and he did as well. “I didn’t mean to offend you if I did.” “You didn’t. I just need to see to dinner.” She started for the doorway, again looking like a person with sight, and turned back to him at the last moment. “Four days ago, I didn’t know I had a niece and a nephew. Four days ago, I didn’t have any children to speak of. Four days ago, I made a decision that would change the course of my life and those of the five kids that I now have. I had no experience with children. I knew nothing of how to make sure they were fed well. Being blind didn’t even come into the picture until we were all here. Was it a great deal? Hell yeah. Was I overwhelmed? Yes, right up until one of them took my hand into theirs. Would I do it again? Without hesitation. You should think more along the lines of how things will affect you in the long run rather than thinking about how they’re going to make you feel right at this moment. Dinner will be in about ten minutes, Martin.” After she left him, Martin thought about what she had said and burst out laughing. She had just scolded him in a way that he was sure she didn’t realize. Standing up, he decided he was going to find the children and hang out with the rest of the family. And as of the moment, Yasmine left him, he thought he was a part of a wonderful family. ~*~ “I’m not sure what you want from me, Mr. Billows, but I’m not even in the state right now. I asked for and got approved to have this weekend off. I have to settle my brother’s estate.” Mr. Billows told her she had one hour before she was to report to work. “Not possible. As I have said to you numerous times now, I’m not going to be able to come in. For a great many reasons, but not being in the state should be enough to tell you I’m not going to make it.” “Gracie, I’m sick of dealing with your shit all the time. You had better be in here at the beginning of this shift, or you should start looking for another job. Employees like

you are a dime a dozen.” She let out a long breath. He couldn’t just replace her, and she knew it. “What do you have to say to that?” “What do you think?” He told her she was a smart girl for doing what he demanded. “No, you got it wrong. I’m not going to be coming in tonight or any other night. I’ll be contacting the owner tomorrow as well. If you’re really that short-staffed, Mr. Billows, you should wait tables yourself. I’m finished.” It felt good to hang up on the man in mid-sentence. Before she could allow her doubts to settle in with her, she called the owner. Since she knew he’d be home today, it didn’t bother her to call him at home. He had given her the number. “Mr. Anderson, my name is Gracie Jefferies. I work at your restaurant called Devonshire. Mr. Billows just made it, so I’ve had to quit the restaurant, and I wanted to give you my side before he painted me as a bad person. I might need a reference from you or something. I doubt he’ll do anything but slander my name four ways from Sunday.” Mr. Anderson laughed, and she had to smile. He laughed like he didn’t care one bit. “Yes, well, on my side, it’s not all that funny. I explained to him that I had to settle my brother’s estate for the bloodsucking attorneys. I haven’t any idea why it has to be settled right this minute. As far as I can see, he didn’t have a pot to piss in, much less the fancy name they’re calling the estate. And I had asked for and was approved for the next four days off. I should be getting paid for it, as I’ve never had a day off in over sixteen months. I had to work the day we buried my brother.

” Gracie realized she was babbling and told the man what had happened. “Gracie, did he ever allow you to train him on the closing procedures of the place? Or, for that matter, how to make out a schedule? Work that he should have been doing and wasn’t?” “I couldn’t even try and show him how to rotate stock in the big fridge. He said whatever came out of the storage place would be used before its date, and I was to just leave it alone.” He asked her if she’d done that. “No. Of course not. I know better than that. But I did ask for the time off, sir. I have the approval slip he signed the day I turned it in.” “I have no doubt that you have. And please accept my condolences on your brother’s passing. I didn’t know.”

She said he’d been sick for a long time. “Still, it is tragic. Let me know what attorney’s office you’re working with, and I’ll find out what all the rush is about. That way, you can focus on what you’re there to do. Where are you, anyway?” “Ohio. A little town that no one has heard much about called Trinway.” He laughed again. Gracie was beginning to think the man was off his rocker or something. Finding everything funny wasn’t sane. “Anyway, you don’t have to do that. I’ll go there and take care of whatever they need, then clean out his house. I have to put it on the market as well right away, as he had built up medical bills more than the fund he was drawing on could cover. I have no idea why I’m telling you this.” “It sounds to me like you needed to vent, and I was the perfect person to do it to. But I know Trinway, Gracie. It’s not far from Dresden, where I’m currently living. With my wife and brothers. I can get things taken care of for you right now.” Again, she told him he didn’t have to do that.

“I don’t. But I think you’ve done me a large favor by quitting your job today and finding out what Mr. Billows can do without you there running things for him. He’s going to be in deep shit when the doors open, I think. Can you stay at your brother’s place? Or do you need accommodations? I can do that for you if you wish.” “No, I can stay at my—what the hell is wrong with you?” He laughed again, and she felt her temper fall over her mouth. “You’ve done nothing but be nice to me since you went to the restaurant where I worked. Now you’re being nice about my brother dying, getting me an attorney, and finding me digs to stay in. No one in their right mind is that nice.” “My wife would agree with you. But my mom taught me to help those that needed a hand up. She made it her life’s work to do that. As for helping you in particular, you’ve been very nice to me in calling me and telling me the restaurant might be closed down tonight.

Because as much as I’d like for the man to fail, he’ll take my place with him. But only for tonight.” She asked him if he could afford that. “I can. Even if I couldn’t, it’s a better way of him getting terminated than me calling him and doing it on— Ah. There he is now. Calling, no doubt, to tell me what a horrid person you are and that I should be grateful he’s fired you.” “He didn’t fire me. I’m sure it would have come to that, but Mr. Billows gave me an ultimatum that I couldn’t work with. So I quit.” He asked her to hold on if she could. Telling him she could, Gracie watched the people playing in their yards while she waited. Charlie had been ill since he was a child. He had fallen out of a tree at the daycare center where the two of them had been taken while their parents worked. Charlie had been about four, not that she ever believed he’d been climbing a tree in the first place, but he had hit his head. Hard enough, her parents had been told that it cracked his skull. Since they’d had no insurance that would cover something like that kind of major surgery for a clumsy kid—they’d not even offered it to them—they’d not been able to afford for him to have whatever would be necessary for him to live. To this day, she believed that one of the adults working at the daycare center had hurt him. The government not only provided her family with a food card, but they had paid for daycare so they’d not be a total burden on society.

The insurance was all right—it covered a lot—but not nearly what they needed at that time. Charlie could live alone only with someone coming in once a day to check on him. He could function well enough to work at a menial job, so long as it was repetitive and wasn’t something that had to be done in a timeframe. He could do it; Charlie would work at a job all day and night, but once he was off the task for more than a few minutes, he’d have to be trained all over. When Mr. Anderson came back on the phone, he asked her if he could message her something to her phone. Telling him that was fine, she wasn’t sure what he’d have to say to her in a message that he couldn’t say while they were speaking. Then he explained.

“That’s the name of the attorney that is going to meet you at Bickerton and Bickerton in the morning. Arthur is a good attorney and a good friend. He said you were to dress casually, not dressed up. I’m not entirely sure why, but that’s what he told me to tell you. Also, would you mind letting him make a copy of your permission slip from Billows? He’s claiming you are fabricating all of this.” She said she wasn’t a liar. “I know that. All right. He’s going to pick you up in the morning. I’ve already given him the address where you’re staying.” “And just how did you come by that information?” His laughter again made her want to smack him. “Look, Mr. Anderson, I no longer work for you, so why the hell are you doing this? For a sense of enjoyment on my part? I won’t think it’s funny if I have to find my own way to the office in the morning and find out that being late or some shit is forfeiting whatever little bit my brother had to them. I think they’re crooks, but I don’t know a great deal about bloodsuckers.” “I have the best bloodsuckers in the world working for me. If I didn’t, I’d not be as wealthy as I am.” She told him to fuck off. “Thank you for that. It’s refreshing to hear someone that isn’t the least bit impressed by me or my money.

I’ll see you in the morning, Gracie. Good luck tomorrow.” After ringing off with him, she sat there long enough to look Mr. Anderson up. Whistling about what the news articles said about his money, she put her phone away. Not that she felt any better about him helping her, but she knew now that he could well afford it. Starting her rental up, she made her way to her brother’s home. When their parents had died, there had been a little money put away. They’d also been able to afford to purchase them a little house that just happened to be in a place that was developing into a nice neighborhood. She’d been able to sell it for about ten times more than her parents had paid for it and buy the house that Charlie was living in.

Having it outfitted for his needs took all the rest of the money. Going into the house, it occurred to her that this would be the last time she was here before selling it off. That her brother, her hero, wasn’t going to come around the corner and tell her to wipe her feet. Wiping at her tears, she turned her phone off when Mr. Billows’s name came up. There wasn’t much in the place that she’d have to deal with. Clothing, of course. His books too. Charlie loved to read when he needed to unwind. She did as well. The furniture had to be taken care of. Mostly she thought she’d give it away or donate it. Gracie thought someone could use it. Getting her things out of the car, she pulled out the large trash bags she’d had at home and started in his bedroom. It took her nearly two hours to bag up items that still smelled like Charlie. At about six, someone knocked on the door. While she wasn’t sure if the neighbors knew her brother all that well, she went to check to see who was there. Opening the door, knowing that small towns weren’t as safe as everyone assumed they were, she left the chain on the door.

“Ms. Jefferies, my name is Arthur Fowler. Mr. Anderson, Caleb, sent me here to bring you some dinner, and I’d like to go over any information you might be able to help me with concerning your brother’s health and his estate.” She opened the door wider and asked to see his identification. “Yes, of course. I should have thought of that.” After checking it out, she allowed him in the house. Before she could close the door behind him, he waved for the people she’d not seen to come into the house as well. They were delivery people. The smells coming from the many bags they had made her realize she had not just skipped breakfast but lunch too. The food was spread out before them. As Arthur set his laptop to the side, he asked her about Charlie. Stuffing her face while answering him, she realized the man was a good attorney. He seemed to know his shit. After telling him about the accident, as well as the names of the people that had worked there, she got up to find the file she’d left here with her brother in the event she could ever get him an attorney.

“This will be very helpful. I have it here, too, that your parents had filed for a wrongful act, naming the daycare as negligent. Do you know if anything became of that?” She told him that they were turned away from every attorney they asked for help. “This isn’t the way I do things, Ms. Jefferies. I get to the bottom of things regardless of what someone might want me to do.” “My parents did try.” He told her he wasn’t saying they hadn’t but that the attorney should have done it regardless of if there was money or not. “Yeah, there isn’t any of that either. I know Mr. Anderson said he’d pay you, but I’d like it if you were to send me the bill. I don’t have a job right now, but I can work anywhere and do a good job.” “I’m sure you give every task all you can when assigned.” Even after all the food was eaten and leftovers put away, they talked. It was nearly nine at night when Arthur stood up to leave. “You’ve given me more than I think I could have found in files for this. I’ll be by in the morning to pick you up. I’m staying at Caleb’s tonight, so I’ll be close if you think of something.”

“I don’t know what else it would be. I think we’ve covered about anything and everything.” She smiled when he laughed. “I’ll see you in the morning.” After he left her, she found her old bedroom that she used when she came to stay with Charlie. There was very little in the room. An empty dresser. A closet with hangers that looked like a row of flowers. They were so colorful. Finding one of Charlie’s large shirts, she pulled it over her head and laid down on the bed. Tomorrow was either going to break her or let her start over. She wasn’t sure she’d get either, but it was a hope. Gracie thought of her family. Her parents had tried so hard to make their lives better. They were making some headway into having money put away for a few things, like a vacation, when Charlie had been hurt. They’d not been able to take any vacations, of course, but they had always made time for their children.

In the summer months, they’d have picnics at the local parks. Go fishing at the dam. A great many free things that seemed like the world to them. A large basket of treats, Mom’s jams, a ham sandwich or two, and a bottle of water was their meal when out like that. Mom made quilts for their beds. Dad could repair anything and everything. That was where most of the extra money had come from was Dad knowing how to fix something. Everyone in the neighborhood knew to take it to Dad to be repaired, while Mom knew how to take something in and let it out when it came to clothing. What they didn’t have in material things, they certainly had more than enough love to go around. Twice that she could remember, they’d taken in a child or two. Just until their parents could find a job. Mom babysat, too, and helped with tutoring. Everyone that came in contact with them respected them and liked them.

They were the best. Now she was the only one left, and it made her sad to think that when she died, that would be the end of the Jefferies that she was related to. Turning over on the bed, she looked out the window that was at eye level. Even for as late as it was, children were playing outside. She rarely saw a kid where she’d been working without a phone attached to their ear or looking down at it. The kids were catching firebugs. They weren’t keeping them but catching and then releasing them. Gracie had done the same thing when she’d been little. Remembering to set her alarm so she’d get up in the morning, she turned her phone back on. Always surprised that it would come on, she set it for seven. Not bothering with the messages she had on it, she watched the children more. They were much more entertaining than anything that Billows had to say to her. Charlie had been gone for a month now. The woman who came in to check on him had called her one morning, sobbing about how he’d fallen asleep and not woken. Even as she tried to calm the woman down, Gracie felt her heart shatter.

It was the hardest call she’d ever taken. In that month, she’d been working herself to death to be able to afford a ticket to come here to do this last thing for him. Affording the ticket to come here for his funeral had nearly bankrupted her. But she’d made do with eating her free meal at work and taking any leftovers home that the cook had saved for her. Then Billows found out about the free meals. The next afternoon there was a sign put up that there would be no more freebies for anyone. She’d been the only one that qualified for the meal, as she was the only full-time waitress there. Not because she was scheduled to be full-time, but covering both Billows’ and the day manager’s schedules when they decided to just not show up was the only perk she got. He’d also taken her overtime away from her. Gracie had almost stopped doing the job of three people when she realized that if the place shut down, which she was sure would happen, there would be a lot of people out of work. There were seven waitstaff as well as kitchen help, cooks, and the busboys that depended on the place having their doors open. She couldn’t have done that to anyone.

Every week she’d get paid for thirty hours, what she’d been scheduled for, and all the other seventy-plus hours would be free. Not that she didn’t keep track of the hours she wasn’t being paid for. She wrote every shift down, and even the extra time she had to do at home by making schedules, ordering food for the place, having carpets replaced when needed, and repairs done, as well as a lot of other jobs the manager should have been taking care of. Gracie had been working there for ten years. She knew the place better than the people who had built it, she’d bet. Gracie was upset about the things she’d been doing and how she’d been treated. Pulling her mom’s quilt up to her nose, she inhaled deeply of the scent that was still there. Sunshine. It calmed her more than anything else. It was nearing midnight when she felt she might be able to close her eyes for a few hours. She really hadn’t slept well since she’d gotten the call about Charlie being gone. Crying herself to sleep, she let the tears fall while she willed herself to sleep.

Marley Morgan’s Leap Release Blitz&Giveaway

Marley Golden and his five brothers were the first of their kind. Born leopards, they were blessed with the magic of being the first leopard shifters. Morgan, their mother by proxy, raised them to blend in with humans and to be good men. Blessed with immortality, they all lived together on Morgan’s Leap, a sanctuary for all nature.

Sin had come into town to rescue her little brother, Cody, from her deadbeat mom. She was ever so grateful to Morgan for helping them out. When a man she’d never met, Marley, entered the room, Sin had the insane need to let him hold her.

When Sin and her little brother, Cody, came into his life, it was at a time when Sin was at her lowest. Marley promised that he’d move mountains to make sure that no harm came to either of them again.

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Carroll Golden and his five brothers were the first of their kind. Born leopards, they were blessed with the magic of being the first leopard shifters. Morgan, their mother by proxy, raised them to blend in with humans and to be good men. Blessed with immortality, they all lived together on Morgan’s Leap, a sanctuary for all nature.

Hanna March worked for the FDA. She had always wanted to visit Morgan’s Leap, but it was closed to the public, so when she was given the opportunity to inspect their orchard on some bogus complaint, she jumped at the chance. The place was beyond anything she ever expected, and Morgan was the perfect host. But when someone took a potshot at Morgan from the field, a huge leopard came out of nowhere and took them both down. Hanna, hitting her head on the way to the ground, was down for the count.

Carroll shifted back to human as soon as the women were out of danger, but finding out the pretty FDA agent was his mate took Carroll by surprise, and boy was she going to be mad when she woke up.

Leslie Golden and his five brothers were the first of their kind. Born leopards, they were blessed with the magic of being the first leopard shifters. Morgan, their mother by proxy, raised them to blend in with humans and to be good men. Blessed with immortality, they all lived together on Morgan’s Leap, a sanctuary for all nature.

Venetia had been thrown from a vehicle and left for dead at the edge of the Golden’s property. When found by the Goldens, she couldn’t remember what had happened to her.

It didn’t take long for Leslie to realize who Venita was to him. Everything was happening so fast to him and all his brothers. Now, a car crash at the edge of their property left them with three kids to raise. Then it hit him all at once. He had a mate, and he was a father… What else would be in store for his new family?

Bailey Golden and his five brothers were the first of their kind. Born leopards, they were blessed with the magic of being the first leopard shifters. Morgan, their mother by proxy, raised them to blend in with humans and to be good men. Blessed with immortality, they all lived together on Morgan’s Leap, a sanctuary for all nature.

Zippy and her sister, Venita, were born witches. Veni, Leslie’s mate, was the grand witch, but Zippy was no slouch when it came to magic. Zippy and their parents came to Morgan’s Leap because they had discovered that Veni was alive, not dead as they’d been led to believe, and they wanted her back in their lives. Although Zippy was thankful to have her sister back in her life, discovering she had a mate was both a shock and a blessing.

Bailey was surprised but not at all unhappy when Zippy appeared in his life. Everything around him was changing so fast. And when Zippy didn’t hesitate to take in the three abandoned infants from the hospital, his heart couldn’t have been fuller….

Carroll https://www.amazon.com/Carroll-Morgans-Leopards-Shapeshifter-Romance-ebook/dp/B08Y7VVLJL/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=carroll+by+kathi+s+barton&qid=1633184717&sr=8-1

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Prologue


Morgan made herself into a tight ball as she hid herself in the tall grasses in the field. She knew that the men chasing her would find her soon enough. But for now, she was going to make them work for it. Closing her eyes, trying her best to calm her breathing, she did the only thing she knew to do to not think about what was going on around her. Morgan counted to fifty in all the languages that she knew. She had awakened out here. All she remembered was having dinner in the kitchen with the staff and then waking out in the middle of the moonless night. She’d not remembered going to bed.

Not putting on her nightgown she had on now. Nor did she remember waking when brought out here in the cool night. Soon after waking, she heard the voices of the men, six she thought she’d counted, saying that the first one that found her could have her. At fourteen, Morgan knew exactly what that meant. They were going to rape her. Then more than likely, kill her. Her parents would be looking for her. She would admit, only to herself, that they’d not be too upset about her being gone. Morgan had a habit of getting up in the middle of the night. To see to one creature or another.

So it might be days before anyone— The hot breath of air on her forehead had her whimper just a little. Lifting her head without opening her eyes, she felt it once again. It was hot but not sour smelling. Opening her eyes, she looked right into the golden eyes of a leopard. Their noses touched. That was how close she was to her. The lick to her face scared her. While she’d seen the wild animals around the compound where she lived, she’d never been this close to one so dangerous. The farmers would kill them when they would take down a cow or something that they raised, but no one could have prepared her for the beauty of them this close.

The big cat put her paw on her head and pushed it back down so that it rested on the dirt. When she started to lift it again, the cat pushed her down again. Understanding that she was to stay where she was, Morgan closed her eyes. If she was going to be eaten, she was glad that the cat was sparing her from knowing when it was coming. The sound, soft as a coin dropping onto the dusty ground, was all she heard before the large cat screamed. There was gunfire too.

Something frighteningly close stirred up some of the dirt she was hiding by. The screaming of men was next. It wasn’t long before it was all cut off, and she knew on some level that the cat had killed the men. The paw to her head again had her lifting it up to see if she was next. The cat had been hurt. Blood was pouring from her shoulder at an alarming rate. Sitting up, unmindful of whether it was safe to do so, Morgan tore at her nightgown to stanch the blood as she spoke to the leopard. “I think you saved me.” The cat just let her poke around at her wound, soon lying down when she asked her to do so. “The bullet needs to come out. If it doesn’t, I’m afraid that you’ll get sick and die from it. I wish I had my knife here. But I think I can see it enough to get it out with my fingers.

I won’t do any more than I have to. All right?” Morgan worked for fifteen minutes on getting the bullet out. The cat never hurt her. Never tried to get away from her as she worked either. Sweat poured off her forehead as she finally got it free. When she was finished, she showed it to the cat. “See? Someone got a shot in. I promise you; I’ll make sure that you’re all right. Do you have a lair? Someplace that you can rest?” The cat stood up, and that was when she noticed that she’d had kittens recently. “Oh no. Where are they? You left your den to come to save me? Come on. I’ll help you back.” It wasn’t far.

About a hundred yards from where the cat had come to her. It occurred to her that the cat was more than likely saving her kittens from being found when she killed the men, but Morgan was ever so grateful that she’d spared her as well. Helping the cat into the den, she saw that she had three of the puggiest little kittens she’d ever seen. “They’re beautiful. Oh, look at them. You are a good momma, Golden Eyes. They’re very fat. I’ll stay with you until you need to eat again. Then I’ll hunt for you.” The cat didn’t seem to mind when she picked one of them up, so she touched each of them in turn.

“You’re very lucky those men didn’t find you too. But I guess you knew that.” She stayed with the family overnight. There wasn’t any way she’d be able to make her way back home in the darkness, so it was fine with her to be in the cave for the night. The kittens woke hungry a couple of times in the night. Instead of having Golden go to them, Morgan carried them back and forth to their mother. She seemed to be all right with her helping that way as well. When the sun was coming up, Morgan made sure that not only did the family have water, but she also scavenged as much as she could from the horses that the men had come out here in.

There was hard tack that was in abundance, but she was also able to get herself some much-needed flint as well as some blankets. Taking it to the cave, she put the kittens on one of the blankets and then sat down to watch them fall over each other until they had their spot picked out. It was calming to watch them, she thought. They were just too little to do much more than be rolly Polly little kittens. Giving the hardtack to Golden, she made her way to her home. It was further than she’d thought it might have been, and she didn’t arrive there until the sun was nearly down. Going into the house by way of climbing up the back stairs, she heard her parents speaking out their balcony from her own window. Sliding out onto her own, she stood deeply in the shadows to listen to what they might be saying.

Her mother was standing at the railing, her father deeper in the room. “I cannot believe that she’s gone.” Morgan started forward, wanting to assure her mother that she hadn’t been hurt at all. “This was a brilliant idea that you had, Malcomb. To have it look as if she’d been kidnapped and then killed. I have never wanted anything more than that child dead.”

Her heart hurt. Her mind didn’t know how this was really what her mother was saying. They weren’t close, but she never thought she’d want her dead. But even as her dad came out to the balcony, too, she watched the two of them as they stood there in an embrace. “Well, it wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be to get some men gathered up to take her. As you said, it’s a good thing now that she’s gone. When they find her body, it will be blamed on anything but me.” Mother said that it wouldn’t be her fault either.

“No. No one will bother with blaming you, my dear. For all they know, you’ve committed suicide because your daughter is gone.” It took her less time than it apparently did her mother for what her father was saying. As soon as he pushed her mother nearly over the railing, intending she was sure to make it look as if she had fallen to her death by her own hand, mother grabbed her father’s coat. The two of them hung there for what seemed like forever. Would they both fall? Would they be able to save one another? She didn’t care.

So when her mother’s weight took them both over the edge, Morgan stood there for several minutes thinking about what had just befallen her family. Looking over the edge of her own balcony, she saw them there, tightly embarrassed as if in a lover’s hug and dead. Blood spread out beneath their heads as if a bucket of it had been poured over the two of them. Making her way to the kitchen area, she staggered twice in her grief. Not that they were dead, no, it was that they had planned her demise in such a cold way. Lincoln was there, the butler of the house when she entered. He took one look at her and sat her in the chair she’d spent more time in than the ones in the formal dining room. Lincoln, she knew, would be her family from now on. “Child, what is it?” She must have been a mess. Or looked on edge.

The slap to her cheek stung enough that she was brought out of whatever thoughts she’d been having. “What’s happened? Your parents, they told the household that you’d been kidnapped. Are you hurt?” She told him everything. Not leaving out anything, including the cat that had saved her. Also, leaving no doubt to the older man that her parents had planned for her to be killed this night. Lincoln sat down across from her after making her a cup of tea that was mostly bourbon. “You are mistress of the house now. Tomorrow we will find their bodies whilst you are still abed. You will say that you were out with the creatures of the field.

They will believe that well enough. That is where you are most of the time.” She asked him about the cats. “‘Tis your decision. However, if you were to bring them here, none of the rest of the staff will mind. It is you we stayed for all these years and not your parents.” “I’ll need help bringing them here.” He said that he’d go with her. “They’re far. Much further than I had thought. But I wish them to be safe, Lincoln. She saved my life, and I will do the same for her and her family.” “You have a good heart, child. A very good one. We shall leave now and take lanterns with us. A basket, too, so that we might carry the little beasts.” She asked him if he didn’t want them here.

“Nay, I want what you want. We all do. Tomorrow after your parents are found, we’ll be as we should have been. A good home and a safe one. Mark my words on that. I will talk to you as we go about now that you are mistress of the house what men will do to get to you. They’ll want you, but you’re too stubborn to be a good wife to anyone seeking your hand. It might be well that there are cats here to protect you. You have become a very wealthy woman.”

As they were making their way to the cave, she wondered if he knew how safe the house would be with leopards in it once. Once the kittens grew up, they’d be as big as she was now. Smiling, she thought perhaps she wasn’t all that upset about her parents being dead. They’d been treating her as if she had for as long as she could remember. Golden seemed happy to see her. She licked her face and brushed her with her large paws. As Lincoln gathered up the kittens, she helped Golden outside to do her business.

It took a great deal out of her, and Morgan had to carry her back into the cave. Once they were all loaded up in the buggy, she sat down with Golden to tell her what had happened. “So I’m motherless except for you. I know that you’re a cat and I’m only a human, but I think we can get along. When the men start to come, and according to Lincoln, they will, I’ll need you to protect me too. I shant ever marry. Not only that, but I’m also going to make it my life’s work to make sure that animals such as yourself are as safe as I can make them.”

Arriving home well after the sun had settled in the sky again, she made sure that the mother and kittens were safe in her parent’s big bed. There was a fire in the fireplace for them should the night turn too cold. Morgan also made sure too that the mother had plenty to eat, having given her one of the steaks that her father would treat himself to daily while she had whatever else he had with his meal. Sleep didn’t take its time capturing her, luring her to a night’s rest. It hit her right between the eyes and had her nearly sick with exhaustion.

As she closed her eyes, sleeping in her own bed as if nothing had happened, she knew that she’d keep her promises to not just Lincoln and the other staff but to herself as well. The animals here would need her, and she was going to make sure they were as safe as they could be while she was still living.

~*~ Four years later Morgan watched the man as he ran out of her home. How he’d gotten in was beyond her, but now that he was gone with a little less of his fancy clothing, she sat down on the front veranda and waited for the cats to come to her. Over the last month or so, men had been showing up at the oddest times to tell her that she must marry them.

They would all come around sooner rather than later. All of her leopards, as well as a plethora of other such creatures, would come to make sure that she’d not been harmed or taken away from them. None of them would be harmed here, and daily another one or two would come limping into the compound and be welcomed. Golden came to sit at her feet, and she smiled at her when she looked at her. “He had it coming.

We both know that. The pompous ass thought that if he could tear at my clothing, I’d allow him to marry me so that I’d be happy. He said that I’d need someone like him to watch over my money and keep me from dying an old spinster. Apparently, women aren’t meant to think beyond having a man around. I’m much happier without him, I think. What did he think I’d been doing here all alone since my parents were dead? Waiting on someone to recuse me? Not likely.” Morgan slid to the floor and put Goldens head on her lap. Running her hand down the length of the cat, she could feel her newest litter wiggling around.

“I am worried about you, mistress cat. You’re heavier this time with your brood. Not to mention, I know that the wound you suffered for me so long ago bothers you more daily. The babes that you brought here that night, they have gone on to have their own children. I cannot believe that so much time has passed since that night.” She thought of something and put her forehead to Goldens. “I just realized that you’re a grandmother. Congratulations.” “That would make you an Aunt in her eyes.” Morgan reached for her gun, something she’d been carrying since that night, and found it gone. “You cannot kill me, mistress, but I would prefer that you not harm me either. I have come to speak with you about the good work you are doing here.

The one you call Golden; she has asked me to come to speak to you about a great many things. In addition, I have some things I need to ask of you too.” “Who are you?” The beautiful woman asked if she could tell her in a moment. “So long as you know that whatever it is you’re hawking, I want no part of. We’re doing very well here on our own.” “You are doing better than well, I think. The ground is fertile here, thanks to your way of doing things. Not all humans would leave an animal to rot on their land without doing something with it.” Morgan told her that other animals took care of it.

“They have indeed. Even the things that the larger breeds cannot eat or use, the smaller creatures come to salvage what they can use. You have a good system here. A system that will not be something popular for a great many years.” “I don’t want to have to go into town.” The woman nodded her smile something that she thought was more than beautiful. “You said that you came here because of Golden. She is a cat. How is that possible that she would call to you?”

“Let me start at the beginning, please. The night that your parents died, the night that you came to help Golden, it was thought that you should have died along with them. Sometimes, with humans, the apple does not fall far from the tree. But you are nothing like them, are you, sweet child. You were not only different than them, but a kinder, gentler person than any of us have ever seen before. We have all been watching you these last years.” Morgan asked her who they were. “Ah, that brings me to your first question. I am Tellus, the terrestrial being that cares for and is wholly a part of the earth. The earth and the land that you have here. Not for my doing but your own. This land is rich beyond anything man has ever seen before.”

Morgan didn’t speak, letting all that the woman told her to settle into her mind. She’d been alone for most of her life now and had learned not to prattle on when there was no one to talk back to her. Petting Golden, she was glad to hear her purring. The rumbling of her throat was soothing to her for some reason. “Mother earth. I’ve read about you. You’re Roman.” She said that was correct. “All right. So you’re here because I have good land. However, I still don’t know why you took time out of your what I’m sure is a busy day to tell me that.” “You are a jewel among all the stars in the sky, Morgan.”

Confused at the words and their meaning, Morgan continued to pet her cat. “We, the other earth creatures, have been watching what you were doing here since that night. We’ve not had to once intervene in helping you care for the animals, all that you protect here. You have lifted a great burden from all of us. Even creatures that you may not be yet aware of have found a home here among the others and have been safe from harm. One such creature sits there on your leg. His name is Button.” Morgan looked down at her leg and saw the tiny creature standing there. She put out her free hand, and when he hopped upon it, she brought him closer to her face.

Yes, he was a little man, just like the men that had been coming around but for his size. Then while she was watching him closely, he spread out his wings and fluttered above her palm for several seconds before settling down again. “Faerie.” He bowed before her. “I have read of such creatures as this one. They are thought to be a myth. Such as you are, Lady Earth. I have either hit my head, or I’m being visited by creatures that are as magical as the sun coming up and then resting in the other sky.” “You are seeing magic, my child.” Nodding, she laid her hand back on her leg. Button didn’t sit on her leg again but stayed on her palm. “He wishes to be with you.

To help you in the coming years. For as much as I’d like to say your life will be filled with only riches, we both know it is never that way.” “Nay, it is not. The banker says I owe him great funds for a loan that my parents took out before they died. Also, I have a man who is trying his best to catch me unawares so that he might rape me to take my lands. I don’t think he means to keep me around much longer than it is for me to say, ‘I do.’ They only want what I have.” Tellus said that she could help her with those things. “Thank you, my lady. But I’m sure you have enough to do now with the earth as large as it is.” “I do. But helping you is not something that I take lightly, my child. We all, all the creatures in charge of the parts of the earth you now own, are happy to help you. And in doing so, they will get the help they need as well.” Morgan asked her what they wanted her to do.

“You will do it, will you not. Even not knowing what it is that we ask of you.” “I will help the earth for as much as it gives back to us here. And that, as you know, is a great deal. We are self-sufficient here. Water is ours to use as we see fit. There is a roof over our heads when necessary. The fields, as you have pointed out, are rich and give us back so much more than we can eat. I share what I cannot have put up or preserved.” Tellus told her that she knew that as well.

“If you need for me to do more, I will do it to the best of my ability.” “Thank you.” Tellus looked at her, then at Golden as she continued. “Golden will stay with you until the kittens are born. Her children will be the first of many creatures that will take on this new magic that we wish you to help with.” “She’s going to die.” Tellus nodded but didn’t look at her. “I thought when I’ve seen her around this time, she wouldn’t make it for long after. You do know that she’s the only friend that I have besides the people that work here? I’ve spent long hours thinking about how I will make it without her counsel.

Without her snuggling up to me when I need it. I don’t know that I want to. But I must, for the others.” “Yes, you will,” Tellus told her of the magic that would be given to her. About the babes that Golden would have and how they would go on to be great men. To help her in ways that Tellus and the others hadn’t thought of yet. “The magic they will get will help them to be a part of the world of men. To breach such places that, even now, frightens us a little. We will need you to help them blend into such places. To walk, talk, and to act like real men. The abilities that we will give to them will make them a prize should anyone find out. So it is important that they do not give themselves away while men. Do you understand?”

“Yes. I’m to be their teacher.” Tellus told her, too, that she would be their mother. “I have questions now, but I know that I will have so many more when the time comes. I will teach them everything that I can. Give them whatever step up they’ll need so long as I live. I promise you they will be the best of men too. Not like the ones that come here sniffing out an easy way to my home.” “You will not die either, Morgan. You will be around for their children to come into the world, as well as all the shifters that are to be born.” Morgan asked her about the men coming around. “They will not come around again should you wish it. Button will have for himself to use an army of faeries that will come to your aid in that and anything else you might need them for.

Do not be fearful of using them either. Rightly so, they are excited to serve one such as yourself. You have been titled with the name Queen of Shifters.” “You don’t have to do that, my lady. I said that I would help you.” Tellus laughed, and it made Morgan smile. “I will do as asked. The rest, I will accept it as part of my duties, but I don’t see myself using it overly much.” “I foresee you using the magic given to you much more than you think you will.” Tellus laughed again, bringing yet another smile to her face. “I will also give you a list of things that you will need to invest in. They will fund you better than a bank will, and you will remain self-reliant at the same time.

Also, the bank has been taken care of. He will no longer bother you about funds he thinks you owe him.” “Thank you for that.” Morgan looked down at her friend and ally in all this. “What will become of me when you no longer have a use for me, my lady?” “There will always be a use for you, child. A creature such as you will forever bond with the earth and make everything around you a better place. I have such faith in you.” Morgan told her that she could only do her best. “And that, my child, is all that I could ask for.”

The two of them talked throughout the morning and into the evening. Ending up in the living room where there was a fire roaring in the hearth, they were served their tea there as well as juice too. She was told, too, that she’d need to be drinking a great deal more of the elixir. And that the fresher it was, the better it would be for her after using magic. At some point, Tellus took her hand into hers and gave her the magic she’d need. The power of it washed over her in waves. So much so that for several minutes she had to sit still in her seat and wait for it to settle out. Not only did she receive the magic, but the knowledge of how to use it. Also, things, as she’d been told that she must invest in. Things that Tellus told her that would be worth a great deal in the future. After Tellus left her to rest, she was told, Morgan sat in the yard at the back of her house.

Lincoln came to sit with her a spell, telling her that there were faeries in the kitchen now that would make sure that the household was safe. Also, he said, he’d been given magic as well. “It is to keep the house in order. To build out when you need it, my lady.” She said that she’d been told she’d need to have a larger house. “I find that hard to believe, but I will do what it takes to have you safe.” “I now have more land as well. Tellus told me that there are now five thousand acres here that will be used for the animals in need. No one will be able to enter the land if they wish to harm anything that calls this place home. What am I to do with all this knowledge and wealth, Lincoln?

I know I’m to teach the next generation of cats born to Golden, but how much do you think they’ll need from me? What am I to do when they go out and have their own leap? I shall be an old woman with only you to keep me company.” He asked her if he was immortal as well. “You are. But I was told that at any time you wished to die, I could take it from you. No harm will come to you with it either.” “I think I shall stay with you, my lady. I think we will need each other in the coming years, don’t you think?” She said that she needed him every day. “You are so kind to me, Morgan, that I wonder at times why your parents wanted you dead.” “They were in love with themselves.” She knew that to be true as soon as she said it. Looking at the older man, she smiled at him. “You and I will do the best we can and hope that it’s right. Someday, I think we’ll look back on this and wonder what all the fuss was about. Don’t you?”

“I think I will hold my thoughts on that until such time as it comes to an end.” He laughed a little. “Do you believe it will come to an end, my lady?” “No. I don’t. I don’t have any idea why but I think we’re going to be having something new and something strange happening as a daily routine.” She stood up when he did. “Let us begin this new phase of our life, Lincoln, and hope that we make it work better than the thoughts in my head are making it. All right?” “Whatever you wish, my lady. We will do well together, I believe.” She hoped so. It seemed like a great deal was depending on her doing just that. Making it work for the safety of all involved.

She only hoped that she knew enough and was strong enough to make it work for all of them. ~*~ Many, many centuries later Sin fell in love with the little town again. She’d loved it here as a child, growing up in a place that hadn’t been updated since before her mother had been born. The place looked the same, but it was also different, she realized. There were more people walking around than she remembered ever seeing before and a group of kids playing on the swing set in the middle of town. Sin had wanted a swing in the worst sort of way when she’d been a child.

The place where she’d been told to meet Morgan was just outside of town. The large shop was doing a good business, and it looked like everyone was coming out of the place as happy as she’d ever seen them. Once she had pulled into a parking spot in the back of the shop, Sin made her way to the front door, stopping to look at the well maintained gardens and flowers around it. “You must be Sin.” She nodded at the man standing there with the door open. “My wife is Zippy. I’m Bailey. We spoke on the phone.”

She couldn’t help herself. Sin hugged Bailey. She’d been thinking about how these people, without thought to themselves, had saved her from driving into a truck and keeping her little brother out of harm’s way. When he invited her into the place, she was introduced to the women behind the counter. “Hello, Morgan. I’m so happy to see that you’re doing well.” Sin hugged Morgan, too, knowing this woman was the sole reason she was still alive. “I’ve thought of nothing else for the last few hours except how you would keep me fed and warm when I was a child. I don’t have any idea how you knew I needed you, but you were always there. For me.” “Yes. And you’ve turned out all right yourself, haven’t you? Good for you.

Your brother, Cody, reminds me a great deal of you when you were his age. While he’s not as outspoken as you could be, he certainly makes his point well enough. How are you really, Sin?” Nodding, she followed her to the back of the store and sat at the table there. “I’ve been in contact, so to speak, with your mother. There are a couple of things you need to know before Cody gets here. She’s not going to be coming back here to get him. She had managed to get herself in some deep trouble yesterday, and she’s in jail. They found several playing cards on her when they arrested her. She’d been cheating.” “That sounds like something she’d do. How much is she down in gambling? I’m sure it’s not a paltry sum.” Morgan told her.

“How the hell did she manage to talk someone into letting her bid that much on a game?” “I might have had something to do with that. Melody has harmed you and Cody enough, and I don’t want her around anymore. This way was better than what Bailey wanted to do with her. He wanted to hang her out to dry.” Sin told her she’d tried that once before, getting dry. “Yes, I heard about that. But this way, you can say you tried, and no one will think any less of you. Not that I believe you care what people think about you and your relationship with her, but you never know about people.”

“That’s very true. What else is there? You said a couple of things.” She told her about the house and how it had been condemned. “That should have happened when I was living there. I’m sure it’s not improved with age.” “No, it hadn’t. Also, you should be aware that Cody has a little magic. I would imagine you do as well since you’ve arrived. He can and is glad to be able to have any kind of clothing he wants to wear. He’s been playing around with it and has discovered he doesn’t want to go back to wearing anything that isn’t his in the first place.” They both laughed. “He has missed you.

Cody has been telling us about how you would call him every day after he’d gone to bed to make sure he was all right. That was, I think, the only thing that kept him going while living with your mom.” “I wanted to bring him with me when I left the last time. I was even going to just take him. But she said I’d never make it out of town with him before I was arrested. Then she told me she’d make it, so I never saw him again. In a permanent way. I was afraid for Cody, but I left him.” Morgan told her that was probably the best she could have done. “I don’t know. Even now, I hate that I had to leave him behind.” Sin heard a man’s voice in the shop and had to laugh when he was taken to task by one of the other women out there.

“Your son, I’m guessing?” “Yes, Marley. He’s just closed up his practice today, and he’s feeling a little wild. You should meet him.” Everything in her froze. “Sin? What is it?” “I don’t know. I mean, until you suggested meeting him, I had no desire at all to meet anyone new. Now I have this insane need to go out there and let him hold me.” Marley came to the doorway where they were sitting. “Hello?” “Hello to you too. Mom, Cody is with me. I didn’t tell him that his sister was here until I made sure she was. He’s been hanging out with me while the kittens were being born.” Marley kept looking at her, then at his mom.

“Why do I feel like I’ve just interrupted something?” “You didn’t. Come here, Marley. Tell me if Sin is your mate.” Before he could move to do that, even if that had been his plan, Cody came rushing into the room and grabbed her. Morgan left her there with her brother when Marley sat where his mom had been sitting. “Sin, I’m so glad you’re here.” Cody went on about how he’d watched kittens being born. How he could change his clothing and now had his own bed in the big house. Sin didn’t pay any attention to him and was shocked when he snapped his fingers in front of her face. “You’re zoned out. Are you all right?” “Yes. I’m just fine. And I heard you. Sort of.”

She hugged him again, tickling him until he called for mercy. When he left them to go help out front, she looked at Marley. “You’re him. My mate, aren’t you?” “I am yours, yes.” She asked him what that meant. “It means that I belong to you forever. You’re very beautiful, aren’t you?” “I don’t know about that, but I don’t look like a hag.” He laughed, and Sin joined him. “I’m not sure why I feel all right with this. I’ve been keeping men at a distance my entire life. However, with you here, I feel as if I’m settled. That my life has a purpose again. Or something like that. Am I making any sense?”

“Yes. I feel that way as well. Like I’ve been waiting for this moment all my life, and now that you’ve found me, I can rest easy.” He took her hand into his, and she felt a strange and powerful connection. “You’ve got magic now. And you’re an immortal. So is Cody. He’s a wonderful little boy. I’m sure you had a great deal to do with that.” “He’s going to need me.” Marley nodded and said he’d do whatever was necessary to keep them both safe. “It’s more than that.

I don’t want him to be pushed aside ever again. I need to make sure he’s better off than I ever was.” “Of course you do. And I’ll help you with that. The two of you are my priority from now on. I will bend mountains to make sure no harm comes to either of you again.” It was too easy, this thing between them. But she really couldn’t find any fault with it. Like she wanted to be mad at him for being so nice about this, but she was happy. “You’re thinking very hard. Is there anything I can help you with?” “I have so many thoughts in my head right now that I’m not sure how to make any sense of it all.” Marley didn’t tell her he understood but continued to hold her hand.

“Are you always going to be this…I don’t know, giving of yourself? While I can use it on occasion, I might need for you to get a little upset at me sometimes.” He laughed, and it brought a smile to her face. As they sat there, not really talking about much of anything, Sin realized that just that quickly, she’d fallen in love with the big man. She couldn’t find anything wrong with falling so quickly, but it did frighten her just a little. When the shop closed up, they all walked to the house. She was able to leave her car in the parking lot behind the place and enjoyed the freedom of walking in the cool crisp evening. Once they were at the house, she was shown around. The place was much larger than it looked like from the outside.

“Magic.” Sin asked Hanna if they all had magic. “We do. I’ve been able to get a great deal from a family of unicorns. Veni and Zippy are witches, Veni being the grand witch. Morgan, as you know, has been gifted more than anyone with her magic. Just so she could help the creatures she cares for.” “What about the others? Allison?” She told her what had transpired recently. “A phoenix? I don’t know that I ever thought they were real. I’m assuming there are a great many things that people think aren’t real that are living here.”

“You’d be right on that.” They were called to dinner then, and she followed the others into the largest dining room she’d ever seen. “You’ll need a faerie too. Cody has one already, but you’ll need one to help you out with the magic. After you get it, you’ll be able to hang out with him and have him do errands for you.” “A faerie.” They all laughed, and she wasn’t sure if they were telling her the truth or not.

Then, just as she was picking up her fork to have a bite of her dinner, a little person, no bigger than a lighter, sat on the end of her fork. “You’re real.” “I am, mistress. My goodness, but you’re glowing with happiness.” She thanked him and then looked around. “You’re going to be very happy here, I’m thinking. You and Marley are a good pairing. I’m glad to see that he’s going to be all right after what the other women did to him.”

As he explained what had happened with Piper and her mother, Sin was beginning to see that this family was one to be with. They cared for each other, and they loved with all their hearts. Marley asked her if she was all right. “Yes. I do think I am. I’m actually better than all right, to be honest with you.” He took her hand into his and kissed the back of it. “You’re a nice man, aren’t you, Marley? All of you are nice.” “Thank you. We had a good role model in our mom. She’s worked hard all her life to make us the men we have become.

And any one of us would die for her if it ever came to that.” Sin told him she could see that. “Thank you again. I’m thinking we’re going to get along just fine, aren’t you?” “I am. I might even manage to not make you pissy with me just to see your temper.” He said he didn’t have one. He was the most laid-back person in the family. “Good to know. You’ve just challenged me to see what I can do to get your self-control out of whack.”

It was perhaps the easiest evening she’d ever spent with strangers. Not that they were that for long, but it was nice to be able to sit around and talk about anything under the sun and not have to worry about impressing anyone. Not that she did that all that much. Sin liked to think she was her own woman. But this, being with this family, was something she’d never had as a child nor as an adult. She must have dozed off because when she woke up, she was in a large bed. The room was huge, with a large fireplace across the room. Getting up, not even sure what time it was, she headed to the bathroom en suite.

Taking a long and warm shower, she felt as if she could face the day a good deal better. Going to the kitchen, Sin realized she had slept past her normal time, and it was coming up on lunchtime. Morgan was playing with one of the kids while she made pies. “My name is Sammy. You must be Sin.” She said she was. “Cody is in my room getting a couple of books he wants to read. I’m going to help him with his homework when we get him to school. You want him to go to the school we go to, don’t you?”

“I don’t know anything about that school. Nor do I know what I’m doing right now.” He said he’d help her figure it out. While she was drinking a glass of juice, a gnome, an honest-to-goodness gnome, peeked his head out of Sammy’s pocket. “Is that for real?” “Yes. His name is Thad. He’s the king of all gnomes. He’s my best friend in the whole world.” Sammy took the little man out of his pocket and put him on the table beside her. “He’s going to retire, and he wants me to take over his job. I’m not sure how good I’ll be at it, but I’m going to give it my best shot.”

“I see.” She looked at Morgan, wondering if she was still asleep and dreaming this. Sammy took her hand and put a crystal on her palm. “Oh my, that’s beautiful. Where did you get it?” “These are all over the place around here. I got that one when I had my birthday last week. It’s for college if I want to go. Grandma Morgan said I could buy a college if I wanted to with that. I don’t know that I’d want an entire college, but it’s good to know I have options.” She laughed, then covered it with a cough when Sammy looked at her oddly.

“You’re overwhelmed, aren’t you?” “Yes. By a great deal, as a matter of fact. I don’t suppose I could ask you to tell me things like that a little at a time, could you?” He said he could do that. Cody joined them with several books that looked like first editions of ones she’d read as a child. “I used to love these stories when the teacher read them to us in school. I’ve not thought of the Stinky Cheeseman in years.” As Cody read the story to her, she enjoyed her lunch. Morgan had made nine pies by the time the boys were ready to go out of doors, and she helped her pack them up to give away. She asked her about that. “Oh, we have fruit here year-round.

So when I have a little extra, I try to make sure I give them to people who might enjoy them as much as I do making them. You should take a walk around to see what you can get into. I’m going to be going over to the seedlings here when these are finished. If you’d like, you can hang out with me.” “I’d love that.” And Sin knew she would, too. Marley had been called away, she’d been told, to see to a patient that fell at their home. While hanging out with Morgan, she learned a great deal more about where she would be living. Sin had no illusions that she’d not be living here with the rest of the family. It was the way it was meant to be, she thought.

Robert Archer’s Dynasty Release Blitz & Giveaway

Elizabeth Monroe moved from Chicago to a small town in Ohio to live with her grandda, Bingo. He owned the construction company updating Peter’s house. Elizabeth was helping out until she could take her medical boards to transfer her license to Ohio.

Robert Archer was bored with being an attorney and wanted to try his hand at construction. He had an eye for detail and wanted to help his brother, Peter, out. Robert was focusing so hard on the tile job that when Elizabeth suddenly spoke out of seemingly nowhere, he was startled and fell, hitting his head hard on the tub.

Elizabeth went immediately into doctor mode to save Robert. With his head bandaged and his eyes covered, Robert only knew her by the sound of her voice and her surly attitude. Surly or not, Robert was intrigued and falling quickly for the new doctor.

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Merce was a go-getter. She ran a contracting company with her father, and when she saw something that needed to be done, she did it. Archer’s company had a new product that needed to be produced, and Merce knew her company was in a perfect position to fulfill that order. She just didn’t understand why they weren’t on the list for consideration. She’d see about that.

Del was exhausted. The banging on his front door in the middle of the night was beyond infuriating. He didn’t bother getting dressed to answer it. If whoever was at the door didn’t like it, then so be it. That’s what they get for being so rude.

In all his naked glory, Del threw open the front door. Merce didn’t skip a beat in getting right to the point of her visit. The sparks fly as two stubborn souls clash for the first time….

When Heather Grey received the phone call from Merce Archer that her brother was dead, she wasn’t surprised, but when her sister-in-law, Judy Grey, claimed to be pregnant with her brother’s child, Heather knew better than that. There was no way in hell that child was his. Heather decided right then and there that she’d go to the small town and set things straight.

Peter Archer was acting as the Archer family’s attorney. He was looking into the possibility that an employee of theirs, Judy Grey, had embezzled money from one of the business owner’s personal accounts.

When Heather stormed into their lives, bringing her mentally challenged aunt with her, demanding Judy be investigated for her brother’s death, Peter was captivated with her. And when Heather said they came as a package deal, Peter didn’t hesitate because from the moment he kissed her, his life had changed forever.

Archer’s Dynasty

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Prologue


Robert watched the men as they worked on the house he knew Heather and Peter were going to live in. He was hoping he could convince them to let him purchase the other house from them when it was finished. The workers were doing all sorts of things he’d never thought of before that were needed to bring a house back to life, like hanging drywall. The way they put a strip of some kind of paper tape over the seams to what he assumed was to hide them. He was just about to move to another part of the house to watch more work going on when Mr. Taylor, the foreman, sat down beside him. “You’re here to make sure we’re doing a good job?”

Robert was shocked by the question. “You’re making my people nervous, Mr. Archer. If you’re going to be spying on us, the least you could do was to inform me that you’re doing that.” “Oh. No. That’s not it at all. I didn’t think that it would— You see, I’m an attorney. Not that it has anything to do with me being here. But I don’t want to do that anymore. Not at all.” Mr. Taylor nodded. “I’ll start from the beginning. I don’t like being an attorney. I don’t know that I ever did. So I’m looking for, I don’t know, something to occupy my mind and body. I was watching your workers because I’ve been thinking I’d like to give something like this a shot. You know, it’s physical. Mentally challenging. I mean, to watch how your people can hang the boards there and not have to second guess if it’s going to stay there or even fit. I was trying to decide if this was something I’d like to try.”

Mr. Taylor took the notebook that he’d offered to him. As he read over the pages he’d been taking notes on from different jobs on the site, he handed it back to him and sat there for several minutes. It was all he could do not to beg him not to turn him away. “Come with me.” As he walked up the stairs to the third floor, he introduced him to the elderly man working there. “This is Bingo. Don’t ask how he got the name. Bingo, this is Robert. He’s going to be working with you today. He’s a greenhorn, so don’t be making him do all your work while you supervise. He’s got it in his head that he wants to work in renovations like this house.” Bingo took his hand when he offered it. “He thinks on account of me being old, that I don’t know a thing or two.

You’re an Archer. I noticed he didn’t give a last name, but I’ve been around the block a time or two, so I know what’s what more than he does. You’re a lawyer, ain’t you?” “Yes. I was, I guess you could say. I’ll still work if I’m needed, but I’m bored with it. At least for now. I need something to keep me out of trouble.” Bingo laughed. “My mom said that if I didn’t find something to do soon, she was going to murder me. I doubt it would come to that, but she doesn’t have anything around the house for me to move or to help her clean.” Bingo laughed again. It was like listening to a braying jackass, as his grandda would say. But it was also a good sound like he really meant the humor of it. When he told him to come with him, he once again found himself following someone. But this time, he was handed a diagram of what the floor was to look like when it was finished.

“That there is called tile rejuvenation. Not thinking you’re stupid or nothing, but that’s what I call it. The design there, it’s what was on the floor before some fool covered it with carpet, it looked like. What I’ve been doing, and you’re going to do now, is take that there scraper thing and peel back all that stuck crap over it and bring out the tile. Not hard, not if you’re a young man such as yourself, but it’s hard on an old man like me. Just be careful, because some of them tiles is broken, and it’ll cut you faster than a sharp blade will. And it’s nasty. Being in a bathroom all this time, it’s bound to have some nasty turd stuff on it.” Robert started to laugh but could see the man was serious. “Now the tricky part of this is going to be when you get there by the terlit. We’ll take it out of here if you’d not mind helping me.

We’re going to be real careful like with it on account of it being old, and it’s a good flusher.” It took Robert a second or two to realize he was talking about the toilet. Terlit? It was a word he’d never heard before, but he got it. Watching Bingo as he showed him around the other things he was going to be working on, Robert realized how excited he was to be doing this. He also had a feeling that tomorrow he was going to be sore. He’d not done real physical work in a long time. And going to the gym three times a week wasn’t going to even be close to the work he was going to be doing today. Removing the toilet, or terlit as Bingo kept calling it, wasn’t as difficult as he thought it would be. It was heavy as hell, weighing about a hundred pounds. But it was slippery and awkward to maneuver out of the room.

Robert was proud of himself when he got it into the bedroom that this room was attached to. After removing the pedestal sink and the leg of it, the entire bathroom looked a good deal larger. However, he wasn’t sure what they were going to do with the claw-footed bathtub. He wondered how they were going to get it out because it was cast iron, Bingo said. “Waiting on word about that from your brother. Don’t suppose you could call him or his missus for me? Sure would be nice to know if we gotta bust out a wall or two to get that sucker out of here. The thing must weigh upwards to four hundred pounds or so.” He said he’d call him now.

“Tell him it can be redone with new enamel coating for about what it’ll cost for a new tub.” He was asked to call Heather, as Peter hadn’t any idea what she wanted to do. Robert did know that Peter and Heather were going to be living in this house and was a little jealous that they were having so much fun. Robert wondered briefly if he had someone out there that he could love. When Heather answered the phone, he told her what he was doing and why he was calling her. “Is this the bathroom on the third floor?

The one with the wraparound shower curtain that’s blue?” He told her it was. “Mr. Taylor told me it had tile under the carpet. Please tell me that’s what you’re— Wait, what are you doing there?” “I’ve decided I need something to do. While I don’t need to work for financial gain, I do need to work to keep me from being arrested for sitting outside the different shops around town to browse around more. I’ve seen about everything there is to see in the shops, just so you’re aware.”

She asked him if he was the go-between. “No. I’m working on the job site if they allow it. Bingo is showing me how to clean the tile under the carpet in there, but the tub is the issue. If it were me, I’d save the tub and the tile. From what I can see of it now, it’s beautiful. And the design that was laid here is magnificent. The tile is hexagon-shaped and about an inch and a half across. They alternate between white and blue, with the blue making a kind of hexagon circle around the white. Bingo said there might be a few broken tiles, but I’m betting they can be replaced if necessary.” “You convinced me. Keep them both. I do love the claw-footed tub, so that was going to stay regardless. So I’ll find someone to go in and fix it up so it will be all right for us to use.

I’m so excited. You go ahead and figure out what it will cost to replace tiles if I need to. Thank you, Robert. I think having you there will help me in being able to settle things like that. Mr. Taylor would give me details but not tell me how lovely it’d look or give me the design you described so well. Thank you bunches.” He asked her about the other house. “You want it? I would love to see it go to someone else in the family. It’s a big house. Are you looking to fill it anytime soon?”

“Someday.” He looked at Bingo and told him she wanted the tub. He laughed when the man did a little gig. It was the perfect word for the dance the man did around the room. “I have to go, Heather. I’ll talk to you when I get off work.” Robert had the floor done before lunch. Well, not finished, but he had all the sticky carpet material taken off. While it had been enjoyable work—being entertained by Bingo fun—it was hard, and the muscles across his shoulders and neck were about as strained as he’d ever felt before. However, he was satisfied about the work he’d done and couldn’t wait to get more of the work finished up. Setting to work to clean the tile with a scrub brush and detergent, he reached as far beneath the tub as he could reach. Bingo was going to help him move it a little when he got done with this part of the floor so it would be evenly matched in cleanliness.

Robert was so engrossed in what he was doing that he jerked away from someone touching his back and slammed his head against the tub. When he woke up, he thought he’d fallen asleep on his couch. Trying to sit up, he was shoved back to something hard beneath him and realized he was still in the bathroom, on the floor. It occurred to him that someone was talking about him. “How the hell am I supposed to know, Grandda? All I did was try and get his attention like you told me to. Christ, you should have seen all that blood.” A mumbling sound, then laughter, made him realize that Bingo was who the woman was talking to. He reached up to pull whatever she had on his face down. The woman turned to him. “Look.

You take this cloth off your face again, and I’m going to make you hurt worse than you are now. Do I make myself clear? I’m waiting on one of the drywall jockeys to bring me my bag. How would you rate your pain on a scale of one to ten?” “It’s building up to about a fifty right now. Who are you? And for that matter, what sort of bag are you looking for? You planning on staying the night here?” He was addled, he knew that, but the look she gave him made him think she wasn’t amused by him. “I don’t know who you are or why you were to get in touch with me. I’ve got a headache to end all— Is that my blood?”

“Gee, is it? I don’t know. Let me wipe at your forehead that is going to more than likely need about thirty stitches from you slamming your fool head up against a tub that more than likely weighs more than the two of us together. You moron. Why didn’t you just turn like a normal person?” He told her she’d startled him. “Next time I go into a bathroom that someone is working in with twenty other people around, I’ll try my best to make a great deal of noise so as not to startle you. Leave. The. Fucking. Rag. On. Your. Face.” If he wasn’t in so much pain at the moment, he would have laughed. However, he might have been in worse shape if he had. The woman wasn’t in the best of humor, so he laid there, thinking of all the things he could be doing right now instead of being— “My brother, Darrel, is a doctor. Not that you have to call him or anything, but…we might want to call my brother Peter.

This is his house.” He started to reach for the cloth but decided he didn’t want to rile her again. “If you could please call my brother, his name is Peter, and it’s in my phone.” He felt his phone being taken from his pocket. Telling her the passcode to open it up, he waited while she made the call. The pain was making him sick right now, and he wasn’t sure how close he was to begging, literally begging, for something for pain. “Hey. My name is Doctor Elizabeth Monroe. I’d like to speak to Peter. I didn’t catch his last name, so I hope—” He told her what his last name was. “Peter Archer. I’m here with his brother Robert.” Robert wanted to peek at her. She most certainly was nicer than she’d been to him. And he was hurt. He heard her also say thanks to someone else in the room with them. Then the sound of a zipper being used.

“You allergic to anything?” He took a second to realize she was talking to him, and that earned him a poke in the ribs. “Are you allergic to anything?” “No. And if that is something for pain, I will gladly take as much as you can give me. I’m cross-eyed with pain right now.” His T-shirt was pulled up over his arm, and he felt the coolness of something wiping over his skin. As soon as she told him he was going to feel a pinch, the needle entered him, along with some nice drugs. “Thank goodness.” The next time he was aware, Robert could hear people talking around him—his mom, then his sister-in-law. He didn’t know which one it was right now, but he knew it was one of them. Reaching up slowly to pull away whatever was on his face this time, someone touched their hand to his.

“Don’t do that. If you do, that doctor is going to come back in here and rip you a new ass. Again.” He asked Peter where he was. “Emergency room. You’ve been here about an hour. Darrel is talking to Elizabeth now on what happened and how they’re going to treat you. When you hit your head on that tub, you did some serious damage to your pretty face. Like you have an eruption on your forehead that is going to need some serious stitches in it. Let me describe it for you. It’s like you hit the hard surface in the middle. But then the wound split off in about four or five directions from there. Also, you have a concussion, which anyone would figure out. You can have something more for pain should you want it.”

“Seriously? Just, I don’t know. Don’t describe things to me so graphically. I’m all right with the pain right now, but I can feel it building up again. Peter, I’m so sorry about this.” He asked him why he was sorry. “I think I might have gotten blood all over your tile. I don’t know enough about it to tell you if there is a lot or not, but I’m reasonably sure it’s going to stain it.” “I’m just happy you’re awake and seem to know what’s going on, little brother. And that you’re going to heal. You could have really hurt yourself.” He thought he had but let it go. “The doctor is coming in again. Just behave and don’t piss her off again. She is delightful to watch trying to deal with her anger, but I don’t want her to kill you. She’s intense.” That was an understatement if he’d ever heard one. While he tried not to sob like a little baby with the pain, he realized he was going into surgery.

After asking a couple of questions about it, he asked for pain meds. “You’ll be out in about ten minutes. Will you be able to wait that long?” He told Elizabeth he wasn’t sure he could. “I can give you a little of what I’m going to have you put under with, and that won’t hurt you during surgery. Just hang on a moment while I get it for you. Robert, I’m really sorry I hurt you.” He said her name to tell her it hadn’t been her fault when Peter told him she’d gone. Then seconds later, he felt the pain being dulled, and he let himself ride on that. Christ, he was going to be a mess when he woke up. He knew it. ~*~ Elizabeth was used to stitching people up. She’d been an ER doctor for the last five years. However, she’d caused this wound to this man, and his family had been nothing but nice to her. She, however, felt like shit about it. Darrel, who was assisting her so that he could vouch for her abilities to work in the hospital, asked her if she was all right to begin. “I’m responsible for this. He was working, and I startled him to the point where he jumped. I feel just horrible.”

Darrel told her Robert wouldn’t feel that way. “No. Then after he woke up, I was nasty to him again. I’m not sure I can see him again after this.” “You mean after the surgery or just in general?” She wasn’t sure what he meant, so she asked him. “I mean, would you like to see him on a personal level, or just as follow up after this? He’s a great man, if you mean personally. As for the follow-up? Well, I can do that, but I think you’re going to regret it. Robert will as well. I mean, it could go nowhere, but if you were to ask me, I think you’ll miss someone great in your life as a friend if you forgo seeing him in either capacity.” “He’ll make me feel bad about hurting him.” Darrel just laughed. “I don’t think this is the least bit funny. Even if there was to be something romantic—I’m not saying that’s what I want—but even if there was, I’m sure he’d hold what I did to him over my head for decades to come.”

“Nor do I think this is funny. As for him holding it over your head, you’d never allow that. You’d be all over his ass, or you’d leave. You strike me as a woman who doesn’t take shit from anyone. However, I can almost bet that not only will Robert never blame you for anything that happened to him at work, but you can bet he’ll take you to task if you were to tell him you hurt him.” She asked him how he could be so sure. “He’s my brother, for one thing. I’m as sure about his reaction to you and your ideas as I am about you being a good doctor.

Secondly, my mom would beat his ass if he even thought about hurting you. Now, how about we get this show on the road and get him fixed up?” The surgery went well. The reason they had opted to go into the surgical room was so they could make sure nothing had gotten into the wound. The tub, while hard as stone, was old and hadn’t been cleaned in some time. After cleaning the wound several times, finding a small piece of enamel in the wound, Elizabeth put tape over it to help with the probable scarring. They’d have to wait a couple of more days to stitch him up, as the swelling was more than it had been before they’d brought him in here. Checking on him in recovery, Elizabeth was shocked to hear him call out to anyone that was in the room with him.

Answering his question about who she was and why she was there, he grabbed her hand like a lifeline. Holding him too, she told him what had happened in the operating room. “Thank you for taking such good care of me. I know Darrel would have done the same, but he might well have left some kind of carving in my head. Just to make fun of me later.” She told him then that she was sorry. “For what? I haven’t any idea why you’d think what I did to myself is in any way connected to you, but get that thought out of your head right now. I did this by being so engrossed in cleaning tile that I simply shut out the world around me.” “But if I’d not—” He told her that no one was at fault.

“I did startle you. If I’d not, then you wouldn’t be here now.” “Elizabeth—can I call you that?” She nodded, then told him he could. His head was bandaged up, so his eyes were covered up as well. “You want to make this up to me? Then you can have dinner with me. I’ve not had a date in a long time, so I’m not even sure if it’s all right for a man to ask a woman. I’ve been leading a very sheltered life up until now.” “You’re a good-looking attorney working with a construction company that my grandda owns, and you’ve been sheltered? Tug on the other leg, why don’t you? That one is long enough.” They both laughed, then he moaned in pain. “Don’t let the pain get ahead of you, Robert. If you need something for pain, then ask for it.”

“I’m enjoying talking to you. But the pain is getting bad again. Will you stay with me until the meds kick in? You more than likely have a lot of things to do, but just for a little while. Please?” She said she would and used the call light to order his medication. As soon as the nurse brought it in, he released her hand. It was the most bereft feeling she’d ever had. “Yes. That’s it. I can feel it working.” She stayed with him until she had to go to the bathroom, long after he’d fallen into a deep sleep. Even then, she didn’t want to leave. Elizabeth came back in the room for a few more minutes and did something she hadn’t ever done to a patient in her life. Kissing him on the mouth, she left the room before someone could tell her she was a fool.

Going back to her grandda’s house, she was surprised to see he’d been prepared for her coming in late. Sitting at the kitchen table with him, he handed her a plate of cold sandwiches and carrots. She didn’t care for chips, and Elizabeth loved that he had remembered that about her. “You get him all fixed up?” That was all it took for her to burst into tears. She was so upset her grandda came around the table to hold her. “Honey, I don’t know what’s upset you about him, but I will have him fired tomorrow morn—” “No. No, it’s not that at all. Grandda, he was super nice to me even though I caused him to be hurt.

He was a gentleman and so kind to me about it not being my fault. Robert told me it was entirely his fault for being so— Grandda, I really like this man. I know I’ve known him for less than a day, and most of that was him being unconscious, but he was nice to me and kind. It’s been a long time since anyone has been kind to me that wasn’t related to me.” Grandda said he liked him as well. “I don’t know what I’m to do about this.” “About what? You mean liking him? What’s the problem with liking a nice man? Nothing. Are you wondering if he’d like you? He’d be a darn fool not to like you. Even perhaps fall in love with you someday. As for anything else going on in that pretty little head of yours, you can forget that right now. All those Archers are good people, from the elderly man to the youngest one.

Why, I’d be as happy as a lark in the summer if you were to attach yourself to someone like that. I’m not saying you have to, but you couldn’t do any worse.” She said he was putting the cart before the horse. “Perhaps. But I’ve known you all your life, little bit. And there hasn’t ever been a time when you’d been this upset about— You remember that boy in third grade that you put on the straight and narrow? What was his name?” “Danny Thomas. He pulled on my braids one too many times. When I had enough, I punched him in the face and knocked him on his ass.” Grandda laughed and asked her if she remembered getting into trouble.

“I was supposed to be suspended for a week, but Grandma went up there with a willow stick and met up with the principal with it in her hand. He started to tell her it was school policy, but she wasn’t having it. If I was never afraid of Grandma, that would have been the day I changed my mind. She smacked that stick down on his hands and told him to think about his next words. My goodness, Grandda, I have never in all my life had more respect for her than I did at that moment. She will always be my hero, even though she’s been gone for a while.” “I miss that woman every minute of every day.

She was the best part of me.” Elizabeth said she was for her too. “She could boil you with a look and hug you like you’ve been gone for years instead of just the day before. I loved her so much. Had it not been for you, honey, I would have gone on with her. She made me a man that I could be proud of.” “When she asked me what I wanted to do with my life, the first thing that popped into my head was nothing. I just wanted to do charity work like she did. But then I thought of her helping that little boy across the street when he fell from the tree.

She was so calm and barking orders to his parents. I swear to you, that is the reason I became a doctor. I wanted to be able to help other people when they were at their worst.” Grandda used a napkin to blow his nose. “Grandda, we need to do this more often, I think. Talk about Grandma and the things that made her so special to us both. I know I’d love some of the memories you have of her before I came along and messed up your retirement years.”

“We were sitting around and being old before you came along. All the money in the world can’t do crap for you if you’ve no one to enjoy it with. And that is exactly what you did when you were brought to us after your parents died. I believe this with all my heart, had you not come along when you did, we’d have been found a month or so after we’d died from boredom, and no one would have given two fiddles about it. No, don’t you ever think you messed up our lives, Elizabeth. You gave us a life. Always believe that.”

She wiped at her own tears then. Reaching across the table to his hand, she took it into her own. His hands were callused and strong. Nothing like some of the elderly she had taken care of at the hospital that she’d worked at until recently. “I love you so much, Grandda. Thank you for being just the man you are and making me feel like I was someone very special.” He said she’d made that easy. “Well, I love you. And I’m exhausted. I’m going to head up to bed and get going early in the morning. I need to find me a job before I get into any more trouble.” “You’ll make trouble, Elizabeth. You’re good at that.” She laughed with him, not sure what he meant by that. But he loved her, and she couldn’t have asked for anyone better in her life.

Then she thought of Robert. He was a nice man. Also, he was smart, savvy, and just the sort of person she thought could shake up her life. Getting into bed, she scolded herself for acting like a lovesick puppy and willed herself to sleep. Of course, it didn’t work, and she tossed and turned for what felt like hours before she finally gave up and went to her computer to try and read the latest medical journal magazine. Even that didn’t work “Now, what am I supposed to do when a man I barely know is keeping me up at nights, wondering if he is a good kisser or not? Also, what was I thinking in kissing him like that?

I wasn’t. That was it.” Finally giving up on everything she’d planned for herself, Elizabeth got into the shower and decided to start her day. “Stupid man. What the hell was I thinking when I went and kissed him? My life is really screwed up if I’m resorting to kissing strangers when they’re sleeping.” Going to the kitchen again, she opened her laptop and began looking for job postings. When her grandda showed up, Elizabeth realized she’d not applied for a single job and couldn’t have told anyone what she’d been looking at either. Even her computer got tired of waiting on her and had gone to sleep. Everything was sleeping better than she was. ~*~

Peter pulled out his cell phone when it vibrated. Having a message from Robert was always a good thing. I went to the doctor today. Christ, she’s beautiful, isn’t she? This was the first time I saw her clearly. Anyway, they took the bandages off, and the wounds are healing nicely. He messaged him back, asking him if he’d asked Elizabeth out yet. I did. We’re working up to that. Peter told him good. Then he saw that he was typing again. Dinner tonight? With my new girl? Sure. Steaks on the grill all right with you? I’ll have a nice pork chop for my meal, so it’ll be a nice meal for me as well. Robert sent back an emoji of happy faces dancing all over the screen. Good.

Pick up dessert and well have a nice evening. Putting his phone on the floor beside him, he held Heather in his arms. Nothing could be better than this, he thought. They were all safe, and he was going to be a father. It was then that it hit him. He was going to be a father. Peter had always dreamed of having a couple of kids. The right woman hadn’t come along until he met Heather. Now not only was he getting his life in order, thankfully, but he was going to have a little one running around. He thought his grandda would be the happiest. He’d been having a good time playing with the kids at Delmar’s home. “He’s never treated them any different than he did if they’d been born of his blood.” He was startled when Heather spoke.

“You talk when you’re thinking hard. Did you know that?” “I used to do it as a kid, but I thought I’d outgrown that. Robert and Elizabeth are coming over for dinner tonight. They’re bringing dessert. Are steaks all right with you?” Heather kissed him on the mouth before getting up. Then she helped him up from the floor. “Christ, but that isn’t as painful as it was the first time. I think I’m on the mend. What do you think?” “I think I miss you in the bed with me. I miss having you hold me around your naked body.” He kissed her again. “And that. Quick kisses aren’t as satisfying as one might think.” Peter was still laughing as he made his way to the kitchen. The cane was helping him not go too fast, but it was also annoying to remember he needed it. As soon as he entered the kitchen, he felt like he had always felt at his mom’s home.

The place of gathering. That was what he thought the definition of a kitchen should be. ~*~ Elizabeth didn’t mind going to Peter’s home. Since she’d been hanging around with Robert, she’d met and come to like all the family. Grandda was enjoying it as well, as he was getting around town more. “Did you know he didn’t file for worker’s comp? I expected him to. He was hurt on the job. But he told me that since he’d been foolish enough to get himself hurt, he should pay for it.” She said she’d talk to him. “Don’t, honey. Let him do this. He’s a right proud man, and don’t embarrass him for a couple of hundred dollars.”

Elizabeth was sure it was a good deal more than that, but she let it go. Darrel had told her just that morning that she was approved to work at the hospital. She’d only need to take her boards in Ohio, and that would be it. In the meantime, he was going to shadow her, so she didn’t do anything upsetting to the hospital. Today had been a good day for her. “Do you think they’d mind if I was to invite myself to this dinner thing?” She told her grandda she didn’t think anyone would mind. “You ask them. I won’t if it’s a family thing, but I’d like to talk to Peter a bit. He’s a good man, that one. So is Robert.”

“Grandda, I’m not family.” She didn’t like that he waved her off as if it were a done deal that she was a family member. “I’m not. I’m just going there with Robert to have steaks with his family. There isn’t anything going on between the two of us.” “If you say so. However, let me ask you something. When was the last time you lit up when you talked about a man? Never that I can remember. Also, he’s a good-looking man. A good head on his shoulders and money of his own. Couldn’t do any worse than that, I’d not think.” She told her grandda not to get the wrong idea. “I don’t know that I have the wrong idea, child.

Even with his eyes covered, that man follows your voice like you’re a nice shiny penny, and he’s needing it. My goodness, the heat just about comes off him when the two of you are together.” “He’s only just seen me today for the first time.” He asked her how that had gone. “I had to beg him to stop talking about how beautiful I was so I could have a look at his wounds. You’d think he’d never seen a woman before.” “I’d say he’d not seen a woman as beautiful as you.” She felt her cheeks heat up. “Now then, you ask them if I can join their little get-together, and I’ll go get gussied up.” Grandda was still laughing when she pulled out her cell phone. The damned man was driving her insane with his speculations. Just last night, he’d been going on about leaving the company he’d owned forever to Robert.

Like he’d just take it because of her. It was Heather that answered the phone. Before she could ask about her grandda coming, she told her what was going on at the house. She was still smiling as Heather went on about the list of things that were driving her crazy at the moment at their new home. “Living here isn’t so bad. I mean, Robert has asked for it, and I don’t mind him taking it. Are you going to be all right living here?” She asked her what it would have to do with her. “I don’t know, Elizabeth, maybe because you love him? He certainly does look like he’s in love with you.” “I don’t know how to remark on that. We’re just good friends right now.” Heather snorted.

“Before we get into a heated debate about this, I was talking to my grandda, and he wants to know if it’d be all right for him to join us tonight. He wants to talk to Peter about something. I don’t know if this has anything to do with his attorney passing away a few months ago, but it might.” “Sure, the more, the merrier. We’re having steaks and baked potatoes. Also, some kind of salad that Peter loves. And Robert is going to be picking up dessert. I

haven’t any idea what that might entail for him, but I know he is a huge pie lover. I like it too, but Peter told me that Robert will rate a restaurant poorly if they don’t have at least one pie choice on their menu.” She told her she’d have to remember that. “All right then, we’ll be eating around five, I guess. You guys can show up whenever you want. Robert is going to tour the house a little and then make a decision on whether or not he’ll take it off our hands.” “Grandda told me a few days ago that he and my dad had done some of the original work on that house. You’ll have to talk to him about that too.” She said she would. “The house you and Peter are moving into, he said he thought it was built by the first owners.

I’m guessing that would be Peter’s great-grandparents or something.” “Yes. That would be…this is awesome. I do hope you’re going to be coming around a great deal. I’d love to talk to you about all kinds of things.” She said she would on the condition that she was allowed to see the things in the barn. “Oh yes. Oh, my goodness, it is the most spectacular place to be when the sun is shining, or not. I was out there yesterday when it started to rain, and the soft breeze made all the smaller pieces chime with the wind. I’m excited to see all the pieces out in the light. We’re going to see if any of the rest of the family wants a couple of the pieces to put into their homes. Katie has already asked for a few of them.” “How generous of you and Peter. I don’t know what Robert will want, but I’d like to see them. She was quite famous, his grandmother.” They talked a bit more about the things in the barn and then decided they’d see if Merce wanted to join them for lunch sometime soon.

“I’m working at the hospital until I get to take my tests for Ohio. They’re letting me work some to take the pressure off the doctors, so I’ll be covering for vacations and such. I love the ER to work in. I think I’d never leave that area if I didn’t have to. But covering for doctors means I have to have rounds too. But I’m happy so long as I can stay around here with my grandda. He’s all I have left of family.” “Even if you and Robert don’t go any further than you are now, we’ll still be here for you. And your grandda. However, like I said, he looks at you, and even before he had his bandages removed, he would listen for you to come near him. I’m not pushing, but I don’t think you could do any better than having an Archer in your life.”

Elizabeth admitted to her that she did like him. “Good. That’s all I need for now. If you want more, then I’d say go for it.” When they disconnected the call, she felt better for talking to her. Not that she’d been in a bad place, but to talk to someone, another woman, was refreshing. Merce and Heather were a great deal alike in that they’d tell you how it was before you had to ask. Even if you didn’t want to know or hear about whatever it was, they’d tell you. She loved that about all the family. When Robert showed up to get them, he gave her a bouquet of flowers.

She couldn’t ever in her life remember anyone giving her flowers before that hadn’t been related to her. Having them put into a vase that had been her grandma’s made them seem more special. Elizabeth handed him a small box as well. “It’s the book we were talking about. I dug out my grandma’s copy. It’s signed too.” He opened it up to the first page and read the inscription. “There are a lot of first editions around here.

Some of them aren’t of famous people, but Grandma loved to read. She would write reviews for the books too.” “May I kiss you?” Nodding before she knew what kind of kissing he was going to be giving her, she felt herself being drawn to his body like she’d been begging for it all day. When he wrapped his arms around her waist, pulling her flush with his body, Elizabeth looked up at him. “You’re beautiful. I know you must get tired of me saying that to you, but I can’t help myself. You are far and away the most lovely creature I’ve ever laid my eyes on.” The kiss was more than she had expected.

So much more. His tongue moved along her lips until she allowed him entrance. While his tongue dueled with hers, she felt him press his cock into her soft flesh and moaned. It was as if the nudge of his cock set all kinds of things in motion for them both. Pulling away from her, Robert held her while they both were breathing hard. It was all she could do not to grab him up and take him right there on the living room floor. “If you touch me right now, I’m going to be in trouble with my family. There won’t be any way I can tear myself from you long enough to allow you to undress, much less make it to my family’s home. Christ, I was so wrong about you. You’re more than any man could have ever dreamed for when he fell in love with a woman.”

She asked him if he loved her. “I think I have since the first time I woke up in the hospital, and you held my hand. My brothers would have, but I would never have lived it down. You being there was perfect. Like you are. The most magnificently perfect being that has ever been born to this earth.” “You two ready?” Grandda’s timing was either a godsend or terrible timing. However, she was glad he’d called them both back to earth. When taking her hand into his, Robert kissed her again, and they were out the door. Grandda talked nonstop on the way over, and she wouldn’t have been able to tell anyone a single thing he’d said. This must be love, she told herself. Nothing else could feel this good. Nothing.

Jenson Strong Manor Release Blitz & Giveaway

Jade Anderson would miss the restaurant where she had worked her way through school. The closing was bittersweet, but she was happy that Ms. B was getting to retire. It wasn’t the money. She had more lucrative endeavors than waiting on the tables. It was the regulars that came in she’d miss the most. Especially the elderly Strong couple that used to come in all the time before they passed away.

Jenson Strong was told to invite the pretty waitress to a get-together for his deceased grandmother, but instead, he insulted her for being a waitress and said that she better dress appropriately for the event too.

When Jade tried to politely decline the invitation, Jenson wouldn’t take no for an answer and pushed her back down in her chair. Jade didn’t just punch him in the face but knocked him back on his ass. There was going to be hell to pay.

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Happy Reading,


Jade sat down at one of the empty booths and looked at the album that had been given to her just this morning when she’d shown up to work. It was her last day here at the restaurant that she’d spent more than half her life working at. She looked up when someone sat across from her. It was Ms. Bruce, Ms. B for short, the restaurant owner—up until last month and a better mother to her than her own.
“You’re going to miss this old place,” Jade said that she would. “Don’t you be looking for another job waiting tables, young lady. You get out there and see the world, then you go on and find yourself a job that is more suited to that education that you got.”


Ms. B was the nicest person in the world. She’d not only taken good care of her, but she’d also been there when she needed her. Her husband of sixty-three years had passed away ten years ago, and it had hurt her as much as it had Ms. B. He was sorely missed by both.
“Mom called me yesterday, well, yesterday morning, but I didn’t call her back until later. She said that she was going to come here to see me about something. I told her that I wasn’t going to be around after today. That upset her. She said that I was ungrateful.” Ms. B. looked thoughtful and then asked her if she thought that she was going to want some money. “More than likely. I don’t give her anything anymore. While she’s not been as horrible of a mother to me as she might have been had I stuck around, she’s just not anyone that I want in my life anymore.”


“No, you’d not need that around you anymore.” Ms. B opened the album to the first page, to the day that she’d started working for her place. “I wish – I’d have known about how she was with you back then. I might well have taken you to my home.” She clasped Jade’s hand for a gentle squeeze. “But you were, as you are now, very closed mouth about your personal life.”
“I don’t have a personal life that you don’t know about.” They both laughed. “I can’t believe I’ve worked here for the last twelve years. I mean, it doesn’t seem possible. I’ve met so many people in all these years. And now you’re going to be moving away, and I’ll only see you once in a while instead of all the time now. I will miss this place and you.”


As they were looking through the photo album, they talked about the pictures that were in it. The Strong family, a huge part of the community, were in a lot of them. Jade had waited on the elderly couple every Sunday for the last ten or so years. She thought they were a nice couple.
“The couple had been coming into my place since my mom first opened. Bringing in their child to eat with them, then as he grew older, they’d bring in a couple of his friends. After he married his wife, years later, they would begin to bring in their child to eat with their grandparents. They were the nicest family I’ve ever known. Then Bar got married himself, and they never came around anymore. Just Mr. and Mrs. Strong.”


“When her husband passed away, I thought for sure that she’d not come in anymore. They were such a wonderful couple. I’m sure that there wasn’t another couple that loved each other as much as the two of them did.” Mrs. Strong, the elder, had passed away not long after Jade had graduated from high school at fourteen. Jade smiled as she remembered the woman. “She gave me a thousand dollars for my graduation gift. I tried to tell her that it was too much, but she wouldn’t hear of it. Then a few days later, she had a stroke that took her life. I miss them.”


“I do as well.” When one of the Strong men came into the diner, Jade just watched him as Ms. B. got up to wait on him.
Jade didn’t know them by name; however, she knew the names that they’d been given. Just not who was who. There were six of them, all men of worth. They would come in once a week, on Sundays, to have a piece of pie like their grandmother did to commemorate her passing. She often wondered how they had any idea what she had liked to eat as they had only started coming around after she had passed away.
Jenson was the oldest son. He was a big man, and she thought that he was some sort of politician. It wasn’t in her to keep track of who was who in the political world, so she didn’t know for sure what it was he did.


Clay was the next oldest. She knew that he was a teacher of something but was not sure what he taught. Ms. B told her once that he was head of a science department that landed rovers on other planets. Again, it wasn’t something that she had had time to look at because of her education, as well as working full time.
The next two, she didn’t know all that well. Only that Barkley and Barton were twins who didn’t look the least bit alike. At least to her. And that women fawned all over them, hoping for a piece of the action that would eventually end up with them knocked up with one of their kids to be a part of the very wealthy Strong family. Christ, women like those gold-diggers gave other women bad names.


Maverick was next. He was a financial advisor that kept the Strong family in money. She wasn’t sure, but she had heard that they had all the money in the world, so his job seemed, to her anyway, kind of stupid. But then, people thought that hers was as well.
Trevor, someone that she had known a little, had gone to college when she had. At fourteen, it had been difficult for her to get around campus. She couldn’t drive yet and couldn’t afford a new bike at the time, but he had been nice to her when she’d been stranded in the snow with Mr. B’s old bike that had been broken and taken her to her building. Even after her class, he’d been outside waiting in his wonderfully warm car to take her home. She’d only seen him since then in here at the restaurant having pie with his brothers. He had never really acknowledged her again. She didn’t have a clue what it was that he did but didn’t care either. They were all so far out of her league that she was sure they were on a different planet.


Jade had managed to graduate first in her class with her bachelor’s degree as well as second in her class with a doctorate as a medical engineer. Being only seventeen, when she finished her doctorate, Jade finished up her medical degree to be in the hospital to get more education as a physician. She’d had to work from the diner the first
year of her job because they couldn’t allow her in the building until she was eighteen. Even then, they had been accommodating to her, setting up a good computer as well as a laptop so that she could do the work she was very good at, as it turned out. She worked in a lab environment most of the time, developing medical solutions and was involved in research as well as developing and testing medical devices. While she could be counted on to fix such testing machines, she rarely did that anymore as she was good at her other job.


“Are you Miss Anderson?” Looking up at Jenson, she said that she was. Right off the bat, she didn’t care for him or his tone in asking her who she was. “I know you know who my grandmother is. And I’m sure you know she passed away a few years ago. My family and I are having a get-together to remember her by. Grandma asked if you could be there too. It won’t be a big celebration but just a couple of hundred people.” As he straightened his tie, Jade inwardly seethed. “We’ll expect you there on time and with a nice dress on. I’m not kidding you when I tell you not to embarrass the family with whatever you think you might be wearing. So be respectable and nice looking.” She decided to ignore his comment about her clothing and smiled instead.


“I thought you said it wouldn’t be a big celebration. That’s a lot of people.” He looked pissed for a second time, and she asked him when it was. After he told her, she shook her head. “I have to work that day. But I do thank you for so politely asking me to attend.”
“You’re not coming?” He looked as if he couldn’t believe she’d rejected his invitation. She said no, not even if she didn’t have to work. She took some satisfaction at the anger that flashed in his eyes. “Why not? Are you too good for us? My grandmother wanted you there, and you’ll have to make other arrangements for someone else to wait on your tables before I allow you to turn her only request down.”


“Allow? I’ve got news for you, mister. Last time I checked, you didn’t sign my paycheck, nor are you my daddy. I guess it sucks to be you. I’m not going. I have to work. Some of us have to make a living as we’re not handed everything on a silver platter.” He looked at the others that had been sitting with him before glaring back at her. She knew she’d pissed him off, but she didn’t care. Good. It served him right, but she still needed to keep her own temper in check. “I’ve been a waitress for the last twelve years, Mr. Strong. You don’t frighten me in the least little bit. I’m busy. I’m not going.”


She stood up, and he pushed her back in the seat. So much for keeping her temper in check. The sound of scraping chairs had her up and hitting the man square in the face before she could think that the others might be coming to his rescue. If the others were going to come and hurt her, she was going to take care of this asshole first and foremost.


Jade didn’t just punch him in the face but knocked him back on his ass, where he broke one of the few tables in the middle of the diner when one of the spindly legs shattered. The splintered table leg had not only broken off but entered his leg from the back of his thigh and came out through the top. She immediately went into physician mode.
“Call an ambulance. Also, the police.” Ms. B was right there with his brothers, and she had her get everything she’d need to make sure that the man didn’t bleed out. Jenson shoved her away from his bleeding leg, and she’d had about enough of his shit. “Listen, you mother fucker. You either let me help you, or you die right here. Then your brothers can live a stress-free life without you, and I have no doubt that you stress everyone out by your ordering them around. Lay back. Shut the fuck up and let me do my job.”


While waiting on the ambulance to come for the dumbass, she had tied off his leg wound and wrapped the wound with the wood still inside of it. Explaining, mostly for her calmness, she said everything she was doing and why. By the time the ambulance was pulling up out in front of the diner, she was ready to call it a day. Instead, she was asked to go in the ambulance with him to the hospital so that she could tell them what was going on.
“I can’t.” One of the medics, Peter, told her that she’d done a great job at keeping him calm and she snorted. “He’s a prick.”
One of the brothers laughed and agreed with her. She didn’t want to engage in talking to him, so when they were going to follow his brother into the hospital, Trevor stayed behind to talk to her. He asked her if she was all right.


“I am. Thank you for asking. You should go see what he needs.” Trevor said that he’d let him know if he needed anything. “Of that, I have no doubt. He touched me first. Not to mention he was very rude to me. Ordering me around like I’m a simpleton. He even told me that I was going to his grandmother’s memorial and that I was to clean up and wear nice clothing.”
“I’d like to say that this is unusual for him, but it’s not. Lately, we all avoid him. Are you going to come to the memorial?” She said that she did have to work. “It was my understanding that this place and the acres around it have been sold, and this place is closing up.”
“It is. This isn’t what I do for a living. Although it did put me through college, I have other resources that I depend on. Besides, I don’t think that even after what your brother said to me, I’d have all that much in common with anyone there. I do have to work, however.”

He nodded, and she began cleaning up the mess that she’d made. Trevor helped. “I can do this, Mr. Strong. Just, well, I don’t want to be rude, but you should get to the hospital to see your brother. If you could perhaps give me a heads up if he plans on suing me, I’d like that very much.”


“He won’t sue you.” He sounded so firm on the idea that she almost believed him. Almost. She didn’t think that Jenson would have any trouble suing her for him being a jackass to her. “May I call you Jade? I remember you in college. I gave you a ride once, if I remember. You were a kid back then.”


“I was.” He just nodded when she didn’t have anything else to say to him. “Mr. Strong—” He told her to call him Trevor. “Since I doubt that we’ll see each other after this, Mr. Strong, I’d like to thank your family for the invitation to your grandmother’s celebration. I did love her and her husband, but I do have to work, so if you’d tell whoever is in charge that I thank them for the invite, I’ll be going home now.”
Picking up her photo album, she left the diner. Jade could still hear him laughing as she got through the door and out into the cold. The Strong men were nuts, was all she could think about as she waited for her car to warm up enough that it wouldn’t die when put into gear. Stupid men. They were all nuts.


~*~
Jenson startled awake and sat up. This caused him to cry out in pain, and he had a few seconds of wondering what the fuck had happened. Then he looked at his leg, and his temper, not all that maintained lately, flared up when he remembered the waitress hitting him.
“You should be ashamed of yourself.” He looked over at his mom, who was knitting. The way that her needles were clacking together made him realize that she was as pissed off as he was. Without looking up, she continued. “What made you think that you could talk to anyone like you did that young woman? To tell her to make sure that she was dressed nicely? Then on top of that, you shoved her into the seat like she was nothing but an errant child.”


She finally looked up at him. “She said that she wasn’t coming to grandmother’s celebration and that she had to work. I told her to find someone else to wait at her table. That’s all.” His mother clicked her tongue at him. “Why are you mad at me? I’m the one that’s in the hospital. Not her.”
“You’re only alive because she, a mere waitress, according to you, was there to save your butt. Did you know that when she knocked you back—justifiably too, from what I’ve heard—that the splintered table leg nicked your artery? That had she not been the one to tie off your leg so that you’d not bleed out, that you’d be dead now?” He asked her what she was getting at. “What do you mean, what am I getting at? I thought I was being clear on what I’m telling you. And you should have read the report on the employees that work at the diner before behaving like an idiot when you were told to ask, not tell her to come to the celebration. What is wrong with you of late? You’ve been snipping and snapping at everyone, including me, for the last several months.”


“I have a lot on my mind.” She asked him what that might be. “It’s stuff with work. I’ve been working on things that aren’t coming to fruition as quickly as I wanted them to. Not to mention this thing with dad.”
“Your father? What’s he done that has you so upset? This might well have slipped your mind, Jenson, but we’re both old enough that we don’t need a sitter anymore. Not to mention needing our son to babysit us.” He said that he knew that. “Do you? I’m not so sure about a great many things with you of late. Why is it that Trevor refuses to talk to you? Or, for that matter, Barkley and Clay? What about Maverick? You’ve pissed off a great many people. As I’m sure was your plan.”
“I didn’t want to bother you and dad with what I have going on.” She just glared at him. His leg was aching right now, and he didn’t want to say the wrong thing to his mother. “Did you know that the money that we set aside for the new school programs is missing? Also, the high school was supposed to have received their football uniforms for this season, and they’ve not been delivered.”


“And?” He asked her if she didn’t think that was wrong. “Wrong? Not really. The school board received an email from the company making the uniforms that the material that they used to put the uniforms together wasn’t being delivered in a reasonable timeframe. So they made a deal with the school to not only make their basketball jerseys and shorts for half price, but they were also going to give them a huge discount next time the school orders for their mistake.”
“No one told me that.” She asked him if he’d asked anyone about it. “I was going to, then other things started popping up too.”
“The before and after school program, I’m assuming.” He was hurting now, so he only nodded at his mother. “Call the nurse, Jenson. We can have this conversation at any time. However, I will try to ease your mind by telling you that they’ve not set up the programs because they don’t have enough volunteers to work the time slots they were planning to run them with. The money isn’t missing but being put to good use on other projects that were also on the list that—call the flipping nurse, Jenson.”


He did. And when someone at the desk finally answered his call, he was nearly ready to beg them for something for pain. Jenson felt like his leg had been torn off and slapped back on. As soon as the nurse gave him an IV injection of pain meds, Jenson felt his entire body simply shut down. The pain wasn’t gone, but it certainly was a good deal easier to deal with.
At some point, he must have dozed off. His mother was gone, but his dad was sitting there working on a crossword puzzle. When he asked him where mom was, dad told him that she’d gone home to get a shower.


“I don’t need you guys to sit around with me while I’m here. I’m sure you have better things to do than to watch me sleep.” Dad just looked at him, confusion written all over his face. “Dad, I’m not being rude, but I’m perfectly capable of being in the hospital by myself.”
“I’m sure you are. But you almost lost your life, and I began to realize that I needed to hang out with my sons more often than I had been. Watching you sleep, to me anyway, is better than planning your funeral.” Jenson felt his face heat up. “That young woman that put you in your place, I’ve been doing some research on her. You’re an idiot compared to this young woman. I’m not going to go into details with you because, frankly, I don’t think you deserve it. However, I will tell you that you need to get your head out of your ass and stop judging people for what you think and see them for what they are.”


“You do understand that I’m the victim here? I’m the one in the hospital with my leg hurting.” His dad asked him if he thought he was justified in treating Jade the way he had. “I was told to make sure she was invited to the gathering with grandma. I did that, and she hit me. Then on top of that, she put me in the hospital with a messed up leg.”
Dad stood up and looked at him. At that moment, for the first time in his life, Jenson saw disappointment on his face. All of it was directed solely at him. When he left his room, not even bothering to tell him goodbye or even to say that he loved him, Jenson was left alone in the room to think.


Usually, Jenson was never one to second guess what he did or said to someone. But right now, he was thinking of how he had treated Jade. He hadn’t been going to admit to anyone, including himself, that he’d been in the wrong. But from all accounts, she had saved his life even after he’d been a total jerk to her. However, he tried to think of it being her fault for hitting him and telling him no—a word that he simply hated to be told—he’d done her wrong. More than that, he’d been a total ass to her and thought that perhaps he had deserved how his family was treating him.


Picking up his cell phone, sitting on the little table by his bed, he called his attorney. Jenson wanted to get a full background check on this woman and berated himself for not doing it sooner. As soon as Holly answered the phone, he told her what he needed.
“You mean Jade Anderson?” He said that was her. “Yes, well, I can tell you anything you want to know about her. She and I are cousins. However, I don’t think that you’re going to be overly impressed. Jade told me what you did to her in the diner the day before yesterday.”
Jenson hadn’t even realized that he’d been in the hospital for two days. Asking her what she’d heard, she told him what his parents had told him. That not only had he deserved being knocked on his ass, but he should have been nicer.


She said she’d get back to him on what she could find for him on a non-personal level. While he liked Holly a great deal, and she was an amazing attorney, he wasn’t thrilled that she was talking to him as if he was stupid. And she had. Telling him that he needed to curb his temper before someone took him to the task. Again. Also that he needed to stop looking at people like they were out to get something from him.
“Not all people are the same, you know.” He didn’t get a chance to answer her when she started again. “Leave Jade alone. She doesn’t need any more bitterness in her life, and for someone who has it all, you’re about as bitter as anyone I’ve ever met.” When she hung up, he just laid there.


What was wrong with people lately? He’d just been warned off by a woman that he didn’t particularly care for right now. Instead of waiting to find out what little Holly might be giving him, he searched for Jade Anderson. In seconds there were so many hits on his search than he could have imagined.
She’d graduated from high school at thirteen. Not unusual, he supposed as he might have thought. He had graduated at the same age. He was sure that all his family had. However, where they differed was that she’d gone straight into college while he’d waited until he was eighteen to go back to higher education.


Not only did Jade have a doctorate in her chosen field as a medical engineer, but she also had a bachelor’s in math and science. She was a certified doctor that volunteered at the homeless shelter and had been at ground zero at a few disasters around the world. As he read over her accomplishments, one thing occurred to him. There were never any pictures of the young woman in any of the articles, and—he found this one to be strange—there were never any quotes from her about anything she’d done. Not even to say that she had done this all on her own.


There were some articles about a Hilda Anderson he found as well. Jenson couldn’t know for sure, but he thought the woman was Jade’s mother. There were several places when she’d been interviewed about Jade where she didn’t have anything good to say about the younger woman. One quote that he thought was very telling was when Hilda complained that her little girl had abandoned her at the age of thirteen. He couldn’t figure out how that had come to pass. Children didn’t normally abandon their parents. Usually, it was the other way around.


The more he read about Hilda, the more impressed he was with Jade. To have had a mother like she had, while not abusive but surely toxic, and accomplish the things that she had was a miracle. Not only had she gotten herself educated, but she had worked hard at not having to have loans that would have come due after she had graduated.
When his dinner was brought to him that night, he had also been given a file from Holly. She didn’t stay, telling him that she had a date with her husband, but she told him that if he wanted more, she could get it for him first thing on Monday morning. He’d been so wrapped up in what he’d been reading that he’d not even realized that it was time for her to be off work.


Dinner didn’t look that bad, but it wasn’t what he might have ordered from a nice restaurant. As he was eating the soup and sandwich, he realized that he’d been wrong. The food was much better than he might have gotten, even at a five-star restaurant. With his belly full and his medications kicking in, he was ready to relax with the file he’d been given before sleeping. It was nearly midnight when he got through the first part of the file folder.


Hilda is the mother of Jade. Hilda also had a brother, Jacob, Holly’s father, that was a good deal better at everything than his older sister had been. Everything that Jacob touched seemed to turn to gold. While Hilda went from one disaster to the next with only the clothing on her back. She’d had Jade when she’d been barely sixteen, and while everyone around her wanted to put her up for adoption, Hilda had kept the baby. The notes that were in Holly’s handwriting told him that her aunt had held onto the child because everyone was telling her that she was too immature to raise her. ‘Of course, it looked like they were right, but that was when the story started to make me think that Jade had been the mature one in their little dynamics.’


Jade, at the age of two, had learned how to read. Once she had that under her belt, she began making sure that the bills had been paid and on time also that she and her mother had food on the table nightly. Since they were living in government-subsidized housing, the only real thing that they should have been paying for was their food. But Hilda had gotten cable, a cell phone, as well as a plethora of other items that, with no income coming in, soon were turned off. That was when Jade had gotten a job for herself.


By the time Jade was six, she had two jobs working around the neighborhood that earned her enough cash to pay for her supplies for school as well as anything extra—like a coat Holly had told him to walk to school in.
Cleaning houses at her age couldn’t have been easy on the child, but she did it until she turned thirteen. Then she’d gone to apply for a job at the diner where he’d seen her a few days ago.
She was now, twelve years later, twenty-four years old with a better education than he had. Not only that, she was one of the few people in the world that could break down just about any machine that had ever been made and repair it. Even if she’d never seen the machine while it had been working. Along with having a medical degree. Jade was well respected at any hospital or field operation that she worked at by all her peers and clients as well. He couldn’t have been more impressed with her than if he’d been with anyone else in his life. Christ, he’d been a real shit, he realized.


Picking up his cell again, he called the diner. While it wasn’t difficult to find the number, calling it made him feel horrible for the way that he’d treated someone that was much nicer than he might have been in that Jade had saved his life. When the phone was answered, he thought about hanging up but plunged forward.
“My name is Jenson Strong. I was wondering if there was some way that I could get in touch with Jade Anderson.” There was a long pause. He decided he had better continue before they hung up on him. “I know that I treated her badly, and I wanted to make it up to her. At the very least, to tell her that I’m sorry and that I was a shithead.”
“She’s upstairs. Let me go and see if she’ll come down to talk to you. But don’t hold your breath on it. She’s working right now and gets upset when she is interrupted. All right?” He said he’d hold on. After what seemed an eternity but only about five minutes, the woman came back on the phone. “Jade told me to tell you that she’ll be at the hospital in the morning for an install and that she’ll talk to you after that. Also, she said to tell you that if you want to know anything about her, you don’t need to go through the hoops that you are. Just ask her.”
“Yes, you’re right. She’s right. I’ll do that.” She asked him if he needed anything else. After telling her no, he thought of something. “Does Jade like coffee?”


“Nope. Just water. Nothing but water. The colder, the better.” He heard someone else speaking and then spoke to him in a hurried voice. “Mr. Strong, we’re kind of busy here. If there’s nothing else, I’m hanging up now.”
The phone went dead when he told her that he didn’t need anything else. Putting his cell phone down, his nurse came into the room. Everyone here had been so good to him that he wondered if they’d heard how he’d treated one of their own. While wondering, that didn’t mean he was stupid enough to ask her about it. Instead, he took his meds for the evening and settled on the bed. Jensen, if he was honest with himself, was embarrassed at how terrible of a person he’d been.

Dexter A Cross To Bear Release Blitz & Giveaway

Sunny Meadows wasn’t a people person. She had anger management issues, and most of the time, she didn’t even like herself. Working as a government agent, Sunny found herself in the Smoky Mountains tracking down a serial killer. A run-in with a park guest landed Sunny in the hospital and off the killer’s trail.

Dexter Cross and his family were black bears and lived in the Smoky Mountains, where he worked as a ranger for the park where they lived. He was to deliver a gun and a badge to the injured agent. He’d been told she was caustic, but he wasn’t prepared for her being his mate too.

When the killer discovered that Sunny was injured. She was making a move to end Sunny’s life, and anyone else’s that got in her way. Will Dexter and his family be able to protect her?

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Jamie Kemp was good at her job. Working for the FBI in search and rescue as a dog trainer and handler was fulfilling work. Never laying down many roots, Jamie was ready to head out on assignment with her dogs at a moment’s notice.

Mark Cross and his family had lived in the Smoky Mountains for ten generations, and he loved the land, but of late, he was feeling rather lonely. Mark and his entire family were bears, black bears that blended into the wooded areas better than any wild ones in the park.

Jamie and her dogs were called in to find a missing woman. Instead, Jamie found herself in the crosshairs of a serial killer. Mark showed her pictures of the women this maniac had killed, and she could be their twin. And to complicate things more, Mark was her mate….

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Prologue


Sunny didn’t mind people—just not in clumps. She supposed that calling them clumps was better than calling them herds. But they sort of did remind her of cattle the way they mooed when they were upset—well, whined. And they complained all the time. She’d not met a single person on this trip who hadn’t complained about something, even the weather being too hot. Damn it all to hell, people. It’s summer! It’s supposed to be hot. She’d bet those same people were surprised when it turned cold during the winter months. A clump of people was just ahead of her, and she had to pause in her walk to get around them. Why did people stop in the middle of places, like an aisle at the grocery or a narrow path on the way to the falls, like now, to have a whole clump reunion? She didn’t understand anything about clumps. “Excuse me.”

The woman that was taking up most of the left side of the path just stared at her as she continued talking to the other female clump—there were children with her, so Sunny decided to call them clump-its. “I’d like to go through. Please?” The Crusty Clump huffed at her. “Don’t you see that we’re having a private conversation here? You’ll just have to figure out a different way to get around us. It’s considered rude to interrupt someone when they’re speaking. I’m surprised no one has told you that before.” Sunny assured her they had, but she was just like that to not listen. “It figures. Just wait in line like the rest of the people here.” “No. You’re the rude one. You have like fifty people in the line behind the clump you’ve created waiting to either come down or go up. Your clump is blocking a narrow path.

I’d like to suggest—and right now, since I’ve finally graduated from anger management classes, I’m only suggesting this—that you get your flabby fat ass out of the way and have your ‘private’ conversations elsewhere. Though how you figure that with hundreds of people clambering around you to get through, you could have a private shit right now is beyond me. Everyone can hear every word you moo. But that’s just me.” Sunny looked away to reign in her temper before it got the better of her. She didn’t mind people around her hearing her talk to the women. Nor did she lie to her about the anger management classes. She knew she had temper and anger issues. But— Sunny felt the pain in her shoulder just before she fell backward and hit her head on one of the large stones that made up the Smokie Mountains. Christ, that had fucking hurt. “You hit me.”

Crusty Clump nodded and used her cane like a sword like she was parlaying or something. The warmth of what she thought might be blood slid down her back and into her eyes, so she couldn’t see well. “You fucking hit me with that cane? Are you out of your ever-loving mind?” “You’re a rude young woman, and it doesn’t surprise me at all that you’ve been to anger classes.” Sunny tried to stand but was suddenly weak, her head spinning. “You stay right where you are, or so help me, I’ll toss you over this mountainside, and they’ll never find your body. Now. I’m going to finish my—” Sunny tried to get up and failed, hitting her head again.

“Did I not just tell you to stay there? I’ll hit you again, harder this time if you don’t—” Sunny didn’t hear anymore over the roaring in her head. Her belly, usually all right with anything she shoved into her pie hole, was rebelling as well. Holding onto what she hoped was a tree, she nearly went over the side of the mountain when she heard a voice. Well, several of them, but the one that was closest to her was making the most sense. “I’m going to put you down on the ground, all right?” Nodding was out of the question, and she wasn’t sure any longer that she could make her mouth work. But the man seemed to understand. “My brother and I are going to carry you down the path, miss. Are you alone?” “Crusty Clump hit me with her sword. My head hurts.” He smiled, but she couldn’t understand why her demise was funny to him. “No, I’m alone. No one likes to hang out with me. I’m sort of caustic. I’m a lot caustic.” She grabbed her stomach.

“I think I’m going to be sick.” She was too. Throwing up three times, the man held her hair out of the way. While she didn’t know a great many things at the moment, she knew she’d had her hair in a ponytail when she left her hotel room that morning. Then Sunny tried to think why that was important. Laying her head back on the cooler rock, she closed her eyes. “I’m going to need you to stay awake, miss. You more than likely have a concussion.” She told him her first name. “All right, Sunshine—did your parents name you that because of your sunny disposition?” “I’m sure they thought that was going to work, but I rebelled.” Her eyes wouldn’t focus. She saw three, or was it four of him right now? “Do you think you can stop fucking moving right now?” He told her they were going to pick her up.

“I don’t know if that’s such a good idea. I’m seriously only just barely hanging on right—what the hell did you say again? Oh yes. Pain medication. Yes, that helps. I need to finish my walk today. Have the clumps of people moved yet?” If he answered her again, she didn’t know. The sudden feeling of being airborne hit her, and she was sick again. However, there was nothing left on her belly. Being picked up was too much. She begged them to toss her over the side and let gravity take her down. Sunny was sure it would have been a great deal less painful once she hit her head again.

Sunny was in and out of consciousness. Each time they had to stop, she was gagging. Not sure if she was telling them to stop or if they were that good, she was at the bottom of the hill before she could think where her bike was. If she could even find it, she told herself. “I’ll have someone look for it for you and make sure it’s safe. Can you tell me what kind it is? Or the license plate number?” After telling him it was a Harley and that it was an Ohio plate, she slipped away. Another pinch to her arm told her she was getting more meds.

The ambulance ride was a series of questions shot at her, and to her, for the most part, her not answering them. She would have, but her mouth wasn’t working again. The man who had brought her down the hill, she’d been told, was going to find her bike for her and put it away. The medic even told her how he’d gotten her down the hill. “He and his brother carried you. The two of them are park rangers. Someone called the visitors center, and Gibb and Barron were the closest. They’re good men—all the Cross men are.” All clumps weren’t that good. The man laughed, and she wondered again if she was talking aloud or if this man could read her mind. Before she could figure that one out, he started talking again. This time not to her.

Sunny was in the hospital, in a very bright room, when she opened her eyes. They were sorely mistaken if they had expected her to fight the meds they were giving her and stay awake. The man standing over her in a white lab coat asked her if she had any allergies. Sunny pointed to the band around her arm. Everything was listed there. Waking again, she thought this was just getting stupid—she was able to talk. However, the feet, all she could see from her position, asked her to please lie still. He was stitching her up. “I hit my head. That clump—person hit me with a cane or something.” He said he’d been told that, but he was only there to make sure her head was stitched up. “I have a body cam. I’m required to wear it when I’m out because I have issues with clumps—uh, people.” “What do you call them? People?” She told him. “Clumps is a good name. Especially when they’re clumped together like they do at times.

Crazy Clump, the one that hit you, is a braying jackass if you ask me. She’s telling everyone at the station house that you hit her first. I’m telling you that because we saw the body cam when you came in. The rangers are having a look at it.” She asked him why. “Like I said, she’s saying you hurt her first, and she had to defend herself. You have a wound on your shoulder, Miss Meadow. They’ve decided not to stitch it just yet until the X-rays come back. Your collarbone is broken, and you have a concussion to the back of your head. When I’m finished here, they’ll take you back to X-ray to get a few more pictures of your head. All right?” She had so many people she needed to contact right now that she couldn’t think where to start.

When asked, she was given a little bit for the pain, and it took the edge off enough that when she looked down, the feet there had her remembering that a ranger had brought her down the hill. The boots, army issue, were dirty and used. Just the way she’d expect them to be. “My name is Ranger Mark Cross. I’m not going to take your statement right now, Miss Meadow, but I would ask that if you think of something important, you relay it to me at once. Mrs. Hardgrave has been—” She asked him who that was. “Gibb said you called her Crusty Clump. She’s in jail for assault. I’m assuming you will want to press charges.”

“Yes. Please.” She thought about the people she had to contact. “I’m going to need a cell phone soon. I’m not just here for pleasure, though I’d stay if I could. This place is beautiful. I’m working, and I can’t not check-in.” “Officer Anderson was notified as soon as your name was put into the system as a search for next of kin.” She thanked him. “No need for that. You must be pretty important if they contacted him not ten seconds after he spelled your name in the search line.” “No, not so much.” She didn’t tell him more but thought he’d never pass it on if she did. Sunny had no idea how she knew that, but she did. “I’m not human. I mean, mostly I am, but I’m not really.” “Elite shifter. I got that when they asked us to go to your aid. I suppose shifting would have taken care of your wounds, but we need it for court since you said you were pressing charges. I could smell it on you.”

She said that while she was an elite shifter, she didn’t heal like others did. “I’m sorry for that. It’s come in handy a few times over my life. Is there anything I can do for you?” “Just my bike, which I was told is being taken care of.” He told her that his brother Gibb was taking it to his house. “Okay. Then when can I get out of here? The sooner, the better.” “I can give you a cell phone to use. Yours, unfortunately, was broken when you were knocked back on your bottom. But as for leaving, since you can’t heal, they’ll need to keep you a few days. As I said, you can use a cell for your calls, but you have about two hundred stitches in your head alone.” She asked him if he’d said two hundred. “Yes, I did. You hit your head once the first time, but when you tried to get up, you fell back twice more, and from what we can ascertain from your body cam, you hit your head three more times. There was a sharp protrusion there, and you managed to hit it each time you fell back.” “Christ.” He chuckled a little and told her that was the way he reacted. “I’m going to take you up on your offer of the phone, Ranger. I do have to check in once a day with my boss, or I’m toast.”

“I’ve spoken to him.” When his feet disappeared, she heard the door close to wherever they were. “I was told to make sure you had all the help you needed, including a gun, should you not have one on you at all times. I was also told to make sure you knew he has watched the recording of your morning and isn’t concerned with that at the moment. He did tell me you’re not just caustic, as you told my brother, but you’re a pain in the ass as well. Mr. Rugby told me you were here to find an escaped prisoner. And that if anyone could bring her in, it would be you. You’re related to her.” “She’s my sister-in-law. So I guess I’m technically related to her, but thank goodness I’m not blood-related. She killed four men in Ohio and has killed one more on the way here that I know of. The reason I’m telling you this is nothing I can figure out. I keep my mouth shut like a virgin at a Friday night football game keeps her legs closed.” Mark laughed, and she smiled. “The only thing I ask of you, Mark, is to stay the hell out of my way. She’s fucking dangerous and won’t hesitate to kill whatever or whoever gets in her way.”

“Your brother and sister.” She didn’t answer but was surprised David had told him so much. “I’ll help you in any way I can. My entire family works here in this park, so we can keep our ears and noses open for you. We’re all bears, black bears, who live on the mountain. Also, I was told to tell you that if you get hurt again, David was going to kick your ass and bury you in the backyard of his home. He said he knows you’ll believe him too.” “You know, he only uses that tone with me. I don’t know what it is that I’ve ever done to him to warrant such threats, but he does it time and time again.” The man laughed again. “I’ve been on disciplinary leave for a month now. I’m, as you said, caustic to work with. However, once the big shits got their heads out of their asses and looked at the tape, I was released from it. I liked the class, however, so I finished the course. It’s all in the way you think rather than the way you react. I usually react first, feel really good about it, then get into trouble. And if you ask me if I ever feel any remorse for what I do, I’ll tell you what I told the shrink.

No fucking way.” Mark was still laughing when she heard the door open again. “Miss Meadow, we’re going to take you to surgery in a few moments. The doctor will be in to see you soon.” Panic took her breath away. She didn’t want to be put under. Didn’t want to feel like she wasn’t going to be able to handle herself when she was out. The meds she’d taken earlier had been just for the pain, and her lack of sleep had put her under. But with surgery, she’d be deep under and— “Sunny, take a breath.” She heard the voice of Mark but couldn’t focus well on it. “Sunny, I’m going to hit you to make you breathe if you don’t do it soon. You’re scaring the nice nurse here, and she is going to be sick. Breathe right now.” The compulsion of his order had her breathing again. His face, a nice handsome one, appeared in front of her. He was laying his head on the floor and looking up at her. His smile and charm had her thinking this man thought he was all that and a bag of chips, but she knew handsome men like him. All bark and no talk. “Breathe in and out. All right. I’m talking to you this way because you can’t be rolled to your back just yet. Are you still with me?”

She said she was. “All right. When you were hit with the cane, not a sword, Cranky Clump broke your collar bone, and there are several chips of bone in your muscle. They’re going to repair your shoulder without using any kind of screws or such and take out the small pieces. The small pieces are going to be put back on the broken bone with some kind of stitching, so you’ll be able to shift when you need to. So far, so good, right?” “Yes. Are you making fun of me?” He said his wife would have his head if he tried that shit. “You’re very charming. I didn’t want to be caught up in your bullshit, but it sounds like someone has your ass. Too bad, I was thinking about how handsome you are.” “Maybe we’ll be related in some way. I have five brothers. You’ve only met three of them so far, so our chances of—” “Nope, and no fucking way, no. I don’t want a mate or a husband, or even a wife if that’s the way things go. I got enough shit going on in my corner to last about fifty lifetimes. No thanks.

Keep them away, and we’ll call it even on you having my back.” He said he didn’t think that was going to be possible. “Make it possible, or I’ll hurt you. Believe me when I tell you, neither you nor your bear will come out on top if you try something.” “I believe you.” He didn’t move while they put an IV in her arm for the surgery. “They’re going to take you up to the second floor right now, and you’ll be in a room with others until your surgery is finished. After you’re okay to leave recovery, they’ll send you on to your room. I’ll be there waiting for you. I’ll have you a gun for when you’re able to take it as well.” “Thank you. I’m better now.” He still didn’t move, and she felt bad that he had to lay on the floor. “Get up, you moron, before I spit on you, and it lands in your mouth. Go on. I have shit to do, and you’re not going to get any brownie points for laying around.” She was moved into an elevator while he was still laughing. He did ride up to the third floor with her and even told her good luck when she was taken beyond where he could go. Christ, what a waste of a nice man.

She certainly hoped his wife knew the kind of man she was married to. Ten minutes after arriving on the surgical floor, she was wheeled into a bright white room and put under. Her panic didn’t seem to be as bad this time. ~*~ Mark was still in the waiting room when Jamie contacted him. She’d been working on her last job for the agency, and he was thrilled for her. She told him she was going home, having a nice nap in the sunshine. Be careful, honey. It’s supposed to thunderstorm soon, and I’d hate for you to be caught up in it. She told him that he was a party pooper. I am at that. I have to tell you about this woman I’m babysitting right now. She’s the kind of woman you only read about and wish you could just simply say the things that she does at a moment’s notice. He told her everything that had happened since she’d been picked up.

Nothing about her being here to find her sister-in-law, but everything else. When she laughed with him about her calling people clumps, he told her he loved her. And I love you. I’d like to meet her. Or do you think she’s only talking this way because of the pain? Mark assured her she was the real deal. Good. I hope she’s one of your brother’s mates. Not that any one of them could handle a—what did you call her? Caustic. And I was thinking the same thing. She needs to have someone strong enough to put up with her daily. Jamie agreed with him. I have to stay with her.

Not only is she here on business, but she is a little higher on the food chain than I am. I don’t know what she does for a living, nor what branch, if any, she might work with, but I’ve been assigned to make sure she has what she needs when she needs it. Gibb said she was not one to hold back when she had something to say. At least you’ll be able to have a little fun with her. Not too much, but just enough. Oh, before I forget, Bobby’s family arrived today. They’re a nice couple of people. I think they’re a little shocked by him and his sisters being around. They’d not even been told there had been a marriage or kids from it. I’m glad someone is going to be taking care of them. He said he was too. Also, I heard from the prison where Williams is.

He’s in solitary confinement and still causing trouble. The thing is, he’s bragging that it took anyone so long to find him. Some people are just nuts, I guess. We should have him locked in a cell with Sunny. I’m betting she can take care of his ass for us. I’m betting she’d come out on top even if he was armed. They talked for a little while longer, and she told him she really needed a nap. He didn’t blame her for that. Mark had been keeping her up most nights making love, and she’d gotten up early this morning and gone out to California to do a hunt for a cadaver. Then on top of all that, Molly, her oldest dog, had died in her sleep. She’d been about fourteen years old. It had broken her heart bad enough that he’d had to hold her all night.

Not that it was a hardship for him to hold her, but he had hurt for her. The other two took it hard as well. Sidekick, the youngest, hadn’t left Jamie’s side the entire night. He didn’t know what she’d found when she was called out. Rarely did she tell him anything about the bodies she was looking for. But he did know she was looking for a missing person from about six years ago. The family wanted to cash in the insurance policy that had been on hold, and the company wanted to make sure the woman was indeed dead. He’d have to find out from her what she’d found out. Stretching out his legs, he was happy when Dexter joined him with not just a few bottles of water but some dinner as well. They said the surgery would be about four hours—to him, that seemed a long time—but that recovery would be about the same time. Eating his sandwich, Dexter told him what he’d been able to find out about the owl he’d been sent to see.

“He was hurt, just like the camper said. However, I have a feeling he wasn’t hurt until the camper saw him. Poor thing looked like he’d gone from sitting up in a nice perch to being tossed around in the dryer for a load or two. I’ve sent him on to the vet, but I don’t hold out much hope of him getting better.” That sucked, too, Mark told him. “Yes, I think so too. But without proof, whoever hurt him is going to get away with it. Tomorrow morning I’m going to see if I can find his home. I don’t know if he might have a mate around, but if he and his mate are sitting on some chicks, she’s going to need some help with them. At least until another mate comes along.”

“If you need some help, ask Jamie’s dad to go with you. He’s becoming quite the outdoorsman. Last night I saw that he was looking through some of my old books and reading up on the park. He would enjoy that, I believe.” Dexter said he’d give him a call. “Grannie told me he’s doing well at work. She thinks he’s a funny man by the way he doesn’t raise his voice when he’s making a point. I like hanging around with him too.” “Yeah, and his daughter isn’t so bad either. Right?” He laughed and said he loved her. “Well, duh, you moron. Of course, you do. I have to get going. I have about fifty things to do before I can get to bed. Laundry, for one thing, and packing me something to eat on the trail tomorrow. I hate taking just a bunch of those nature bars. Yuck.”

After he left him, Mark pulled out his phone and played a few games of solitaire. He’d rather play the real thing, but the phone kept him entertained in a pinch. When the nurse came to tell him that Sunny was in recovery, he thanked her and called her boss. He had a feeling this was the man’s personal cell phone number, as he only answered it with “Hello.” He told him what he knew, which wasn’t much. “She’ll be in recovery for four hours or so, they told me. Once she’s finished there, she’ll be moved to a room.” He said he was sending guards to decorate—not to guard, but to decorate—her door. “I don’t know what she does for you. Or what you do, for that matter.

Should I be concerned?” “Not so long as you keep your head about you and don’t piss her off.” He said he had a feeling she was easily pissed off. “She is at that. However, when she’s pissy, and you don’t deserve it, she’ll apologize to you. But that doesn’t happen often. Just keep her safe while she’s there alone. I’m sending you a picture of her sister-in-law so you can know who to look for. Show it to whoever you trust. The woman is dangerous. Armed or not, she can kill without hesitation.” “Which one? I’m thinking you’re talking about the sister-in-law, but I also think that could pertain to Sunny too.” The man laughed and said that was right. “I’m going to remain in the dark until something happens, aren’t I?” “Yes. It’ll be safer for you if you are until such time as I get something back on you and your family that tells me otherwise.” Mark figured as much but didn’t say anything.

“I will tell you this one thing, and you’re to take it to your grave—Sunny isn’t a typical anything. Not woman, shifter, or someone that works for me. She’s more than just a little special, and I want you to treat her like she’s a national treasure. Don’t coddle her or try to change her mind. If she tells you something, you can consider it gospel. You’ll die if you don’t. And that is from me.” Even after talking to her boss, Mark didn’t know what was going on. But as the man had indicated, it was really none of his business unless she got hurt. He was really glad he’d not blamed him for her being hurt this time. However, now that he thought about it, he wondered what was going to happen to the clumps that had hurt her. Only time would tell, he supposed.

Keegan Foster’s Pride Release Blitz & Giveaway

Kerri Terrell nearly didn’t make it. With her house burned, her accounts frozen, being fired from her job, and her daughter taken, Kerri had nearly given up.

Keegan was happy to discover he had a new mate and a daughter now too. Protecting them from their supposed family would be his top priority.

Although both lions, when Keegan and Kerri came together, Kerri was more than Keegan anticipated. A lot more. As the magic flowed through them, neither was sure if they’d survive it.

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Brook Garrett had learned to live by her wits. When she was very young, she lost her father to a car crash. When her mother remarried, her nightmare really began. A few years later, her mother died the same way. She was next.Ronan Foster was an officer out on medical leave. He was a lion and wasn’t hurt in the least, but the guy responsible for shooting him would go free if he didn’t take the sabbatical. The guy was for much more than shooting him, and justice needed to be served. Trust was hard for Brook. Her stepparents had seen to that. Now the big lion was telling her that they were mates and she wasn’t sure how she felt about that. She had been doing just fine without a man in her life….

Parker Carter spent eight years in prison for a crime she didn’t commit—murdering her father. Now that the justice system had finally admitted their mistake, Parker was set free. Parker could have left anytime she wanted, she was a powerful witch, but for reasons of her own, she had remained locked up and didn’t use any of her magic.
Donahue Foster, a teacher at the local school, was having a hard time resting. Taking a run and stretching his legs as his lion was something he hadn’t done in a while. He hadn’t gotten far when he noticed two things, he smelled fresh blood, and he felt a presence. Don was dumbfounded when the woman used a mind link to communicate with him. She told him her name was Parker Carter, she didn’t like people, and she was his mate.
Don was so stunned with that news that he was nearly run over by the night hunters Parker chased off.
Now that Parker was back, her past needed to be settled. Half-truths and well-kept secrets needed to be exposed. And the possession of her mother, Meggie, was the most mind-boggling of all. What kind of screwed-up magic was this?

Sometimes, Rogue didn’t much care for her job, but it paid well, and she was damn good at it. As a forensic photographer, Rogue’s job was sometimes a bit more than she could handle. Especially when there were kids involved. But she could always vent to her college buds, Loman and Cass Foster.

Quin had heard all about Rogue from his brothers, and he was anxious to meet her. Loman and Cass said they owed their lives to Rogue, but they wouldn’t give Quin any of the details.

As soon as Rogue arrived, Quin realized she was his mate, but as soon as she met Don’s mate Parker, it was chaos, leaving Parker heartbroken and Rogue hurt. Rogue was steaming mad, and Quin’s lion wanted to protect her, but Parker was family too. Quin was stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Sarah had been on the run her entire adult life. As soon as she found out she was pregnant, she faked her death to keep her children safe from the prick who’d fathered them. Now, nine years later, her twin boys were her entire world, and she was petrified he would find her. When she received the voicemail from Cass, she thought the end had finally come for both her and her boys.

Cassidy Foster was only helping a client find his long-lost grandchildren when he contacted Sarah, but when a distress call came in from one of her boys, Cass told the boys to hide before Cass’s lion took him. It only took that split second for him to know the woman inside screaming was his mate. Would he be too late to save her?

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Prologue


Keegan closed up the books he’d been working on and put them in the safe behind him. Tomorrow he was going to be moving everything into his new domain, and he’d feel better about the bigger safe as well as the good locks on the doors. Just as he was coming out of the building he’d been using as a temporary place, he was knocked on his ass. He ended up falling backwards and hitting his head on the cornerstone. He must have been out for only a few seconds when someone was jerking him up from the ground. Still dizzy, Keegan couldn’t focus on the man holding him, but he could smell that he was a bear. The hard shake to his body had him lashing out with his fist, and for the second time, he was down. This time, however, so was the man.

“I asked you a fucking question. Where the fuck is he?” Keegan said he didn’t know what he was talking about. “Oh, you don’t, do you? Well, who the hell knocked you back with tiny little feet like that?” The snow was covered in little footprints. However, there were a great many of them that weren’t so tiny. Looking up at the man when he stood up, Keegan let a little of his lion go so he’d be healed a little. Standing up, not feeling so bad now that he had done that, he asked the man what the hell he was going on about. “The kid. Where is he?

You have to have seen him. Or are you one of those evangelistic people?” Keegan asked him what the hell that was supposed to mean. “You know, those religious shits that would rather die than to give up on someone.” “That’s not what that word means. And what the hell would I have to give up on someone? Unless it’s you. Then I’d gladly let the police handle this.” He reached for his brother, knowing that Cass had been on his way to meet him here today. Keegan told him what was going on and that he might need the police. “I don’t know anything about a kid. However, I do know you’re going to be in trouble for knocking me down and making my head hurt if you don’t get out of my face.” “Sure. Like I’m worried about you.”

The man released his bear enough that Keegan could see he was a brown bear, and wasn’t in good shape. When a shifter didn’t allow their other half out once in a while, things could get nasty. “So you see, you’re going to tell me what happened to the kid. He stole some fruit from my store.” “He must be desperate then. I’ve been by your store, Hank, and there isn’t usually anything I’d eat there.” He drew back his fist, and Keegan braced himself for the blow. But when nothing happened, he opened one eye to peer at the man. “Ronan? I didn’t know you were in town.” “Cass and I were going to surprise you by having dinner with you. Our wives are out shopping. This man bothering you, little brother?” He didn’t normally care for being referred to as little anything, but he thought Ronan was making it clear to Hank that he was the brother of the king of lions. “I can dispatch him now if you wish. I know his sleuth is looking for him too. Seems he’s been taking money from the coffers at the bruin.”

“Sounds like something he’d be doing. He said he was looking for a kid. I haven’t any idea because as soon as I came out of the building here, I was thrown to the ground. He said the kid did it, but I think Hank did it for shits and giggles.” Hank said it was the kid. “I’ve not seen one. He pointed out that there are footprints, but I’m thinking these could have been made at any time by anyone.” That was when he saw the kid across the street from them watching things going on. However, Keegan didn’t think it was a kid but a girl.

And she looked beaten to shit too. Telling his brother, Ronan told him that Cass was on the case. Since he didn’t have the head right now for figuring out what that meant, he sat down in the snow again and pulled a ball of the fluffy white stuff to his aching head. In less time than it would have taken him to walk home, six blocks from there, not only was the sleuth with them but Hank was being arrested for assault and battery. Cass had been with the girl for the last ten minutes, and it looked as if they were getting along fine. When the ambulance pulled up, Cass pushed him out of the way and put the girl in it. With a wink, Cass told him he could heal himself. Standing now, the snow coming down once again, he let it fall over his face.

There were things going on around him, but he really did have a headache from hell. Almost as soon as he decided he couldn’t stand much longer, he found himself in bed, at his home, with a compress on his head. Parker and his mom were standing over him. “I’m going to be sick.” As soon as he said it, Parker touched his head. Not only was he no longer ill, but his pain was gone as well. “What happened that I ended up here?” “Ronan said you looked like you needed some assistance. So I popped in and popped you here. Hank is in serious trouble, and the woman is being treated for her wounds.” Keegan asked her what lady. “The woman that Hank beat up that was going through his trash. Not a kid, as Hank thought, but a full-grown undernourished woman. She’s going to be fine.”

“Why do I feel like I’ve fallen through the rabbit hole here?” His mom laughed and handed him a glass of juice. “Mom, please tell me what’s going on. I’m a sick boy.” “You’re no more sick than I am. A woman was going through Hank’s trash to get herself something to eat. He caught her, thinking she was a boy and beat her up for what she’d been doing. Once she was able to escape, she zoomed by you and knocked you on your bottom. She’s the one that called Ronan to come to help you.” He asked if she was a lion too. “Honey, she’s a lioness. And yes, she is. Very nice girl too, if you ask me.” He didn’t but kept that to himself. As he laid there, thinking how much better he was feeling, he closed his eyes. Whatever came from this, Keegan had a feeling he was going to be having a mate, as well as someone gunning for him. Christ, why couldn’t things just be normal? He supposed that was a question for the fates. Closing his eyes, he let himself go to sleep. It was going to be a long day tomorrow, what with moving and getting himself set up.