Mark A Cross To Bear Release Blitz and Giveaway

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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Mark counted to ten, then counted again. Looking at the mother and the three kids with her, he could only think they had been told to be like this. There wasn’t any way he would believe someone could allow their children to behave like these were and think it was all right. It wasn’t. “Ma’am, you’re going to have to control your children. We’re walking into dangerous territory, and I wouldn’t want to see them get hurt.” He might if he had to put up with this much longer. “Could you please restrain—?” “Are you telling me I should lock my children up?” He said he’d not said that. “Yes, you did. You told me to restrain them. Well, I’m not going to. We’re outside.

They’re not hurting anyone, and I’d think you’d be thrilled to have someone come on this walk with you. You’ve been quite boring if you ask me.” “He didn’t.” They all turned to the elderly man that had come on the tour too. “And if you would pay attention to what is going on around you, you’d see it’s not the least bit boring at all. Don’t you see what a wonderful treat we have right here in this man? He’s very knowledgeable. If you’d listen.” “Whatever.” She looked at her three children, two boys and a little girl. Mark figured they were about the same age, twelve to fourteen.

Tall for their age if they were any younger. “My kids are here because they wanted to be out in nature. We’re in nature. In the event that it slipped your mind, it is your job to entertain them. You should be doing a better job of keeping their attention rather than complaining about how they’re acting. Again, we’re outside. A little noise is to be expected.” “Ma’am, I’d really appreciate it if you and your children would keep it down. Loud noises will attract the bears. They’ll want to come out and see what the commotion is all about, and that—” “Did you hear that, kids? You’re doing a better job than Ranger Rick here in showing us nature at its finest.”

The woman looked at him. “That’s the only reason we’ve come on this little walk of yours. To see some bears. It’s what we all want. I would love to have a great big bear not only come and see what is going on but to come up close and personal with us. How about any of the rest of you?” Mark pulled out a bear claw he’d found earlier today. He showed the woman how large it was. Even compared to his own hands, it was massive. Mark took a step toward the woman, hoping to scare her, but she just grinned at him.

“This would cut out your throat in a split second. The bears here aren’t domesticated. They’re dangerous killers. This is their land we walk upon. Their territory that they eat and sleep in. We’re only visitors to them. And if we, any of us, gets in their way, disturbs their sleep or whatever they’re doing at the moment, they’ll not come up and thank you politely for making them nervous.” “I know better.” He asked her what she knew better. “I’ve seen online how people get their pictures taken with all kinds of animals around here. And we’d better see a bear today, Ranger Rick, or I’m going to complain to your boss.”

“My name is Federal Wildlife Officer Mark Cross. Not Ranger Rick.” He looked at the others and decided he’d had enough of the family. “Ma’am, I’m going to have to ask you to go back to your car. This trip is too dangerous for you to be on if you’re not going to follow—” “Listen here, buster. I am not going back to my car or my cabin. I am not going to do anything but stay on this shitty walk with you. There is nothing for them to do there but whine and drive me up the wall. We’re here, and you’d better be getting a move on.

I have shit to do later. You’d better pray I see a bear, or I’m telling you right now, we’ll make such a ruckus on our way back that the dead animals will come to investigate what’s going on.” Counting to fifty didn’t help. Turning on his heel, he drew in a deep breath and let it out slowly four times before he turned back to the group. He was finished with the family and wasn’t going to let them bother them one more minute. He hoped. Pointing out the vegetation was one of his favorite things to do. Even as he walked this particular path a thousand times a season, he still found things to marvel at. His family had lived in the Smoky Mountains for ten generations, and he loved every aspect of it. You all right, big brother?

Sighing, he told Gibb what was going on. I think I might have encountered them the other day. Three brats and a woman? Yes, that’s them. Mark let the others view the area from where they were, high atop the mountain. She threatened me and said she’d better see a nice cuddly bear, or she was going to go over my head. I really don’t care. I know for a fact that this group was told four times that I wear a body camera with sound on it. Let the higher ups come out here and deal with her if they think I messed up. Frazier is out running this morning. An idea came to him, and he loved what Gibb was suggesting. Let me find him and get right back to you.

She’ll get her bear and the scare of the lifetime if I tell him what’s going on with your people. Mark and his entire family were bears, black bears that blended into the wooded areas better than any of the wild ones here in the park. And because they were protected, they could run in any field or pasture they wanted and not have to worry about being seen. Mark did wonder what his grannie would say if she found out what he and Gibb were planning. Grandda would think it the funniest thing ever, but Grandma would be— He’s not too far from where you are on the trail at Abrams Falls.

Frazier and Ewing are out there playing in the water. There aren’t any humans around, he told me, but he can hear those kids coming. Mark said he was about fifty yards from the falls. Good. Just keep on the path for a few more minutes, and he said they’d be ready for you. They’d done this before, come to the park for a person to see a bear. Mostly they did it for children, never getting too close but letting them see them. Mark would bet most of the millions of pictures taken of bears in the park included one of them. Today was going to be something none of them had ever done before—scare someone that had come to the park for a visit. “Look, I see a bear.”

He was startled from his thoughts when one of the men spoke in a whisper. Of course, the mother and her brats didn’t do anything like that but started whooping and yelling for them to come to them. One of the kids even pulled out a large cow bell and started shaking it like his life depended on it. “Christ, they’re big, aren’t they?” Before he could take action in getting the humans to remain quiet, the bears, three of them, charged. Mark knew immediately that they were not his brothers, nor were they going to stop until he killed them. Pulling out his rifle, he shot the first large male in the head.

He dropped quickly. The second bear, this one limping, was coming at an alarming rate that had him wondering if he was going to be able to put the other one coming down on time. Number two dropped too—he was only about four feet from them. A third shot and the third bear dropped as well, sliding to his death no more than six inches from his booted foot. There wasn’t a sound in the air. Nothing was chirping, singing about the beautiful weather. The three kids were finally not acting up. Mark let what he’d just had to do settle around his mind. He’d killed three bears, his kind. Ones he shouldn’t have had to murder because of the people with him.

He was turning on his heel. Mark was ready to blast the family when the elderly man from the beginning of the walk beat him to it. Christ, he was glad for the camera on his vest. Mark thought he could go on watching this for the rest of his life. But he had to take care that the animals were cared for first. Calling it in, it was Gibb that he spoke to. All his brothers worked for the forestry in some way. Even their grandparents. Gibb was the dispatcher. Mark, as calmly as he could, told him what had happened. “Are you all right?” He said he thought he was. “Grandda was here.

He heard what you said when calling it in. He’s going to go out with the rangers.” Then through their link, he asked Mark about their brothers. They weren’t here. I knew these were wild bears as soon as they started after us. I hope they’re far away about now. He told him they’d both gone home when they heard the shots fired. Good. I should have known this was going to be a bad idea. Hopefully, however, the kids got a scare out of it. Just as he was closing the connection to Gibb, the mother of the brats slapped him hard, enough to make him off balance a little. Had it not been for the tree behind him, he would surely have fallen. He asked her what she thought she was doing. “You killed those innocent bears. Don’t you think you could have just wounded them?”

He said no, that would have made them twice as dangerous. “You fucking bastard. How am I supposed to explain this to my children? They’ll have nightmares for a month. They were only coming to see us. You just had to shoot them and ruin all our fun. You fucker. I’m going to make sure you lose your job over this.” “Ma’am.” She turned and looked at his grandda. Every part of his body was tense in the event this bitch took her anger out on him. “Fifty years ago now, I was out with a bunch of my buddies when we came across some bears getting their fill at the falls.

Catching salmon, they were. We didn’t think anything of it—it was a cold day, and we were downwind from them.” “So? Why do I care what you did fifty years ago, you old man? This person here, he killed those bears like they were nothing. They weren’t going to hurt anyone. I even have some jerky I brought to feed them. See?” Mark knew then that was what made them charge. They could smell the opened package of fish jerky because they weren’t downwind of them. Grandda asked if she’d had it out when they arrived at the falls. “Yes. Duh. How were we supposed to attract them to us if we didn’t wave it around all the time? You people need to take a chill pill.

Nothing was going to happen. You all know, too, if you’d think for one moment that my putting out a bad review for this place would totally shut you down. I’m an influencer. That’s right. I make or break companies like this one every day with just my review alone. I can take a five-star place, give it one bad review, and they’re out of business.” “Excuse me. You think that because you put out a bad review about this national forest, no one will come here again? Just all by yourself?” The elderly man looked at him, then at Grandda before he laughed.

“Go on, mister. You show her what a bear will do to you when they’re angry and denied whatever some idiot is waving around them. Because as surely as I’m standing here, that woman right there killed those three bears as surely as if she pulled out a gun and fired it.” “I wasn’t worried about that shit. I have my own gun.” She was on the ground with dirt in her mouth before she got her gun all the way out of the back of her pants. When it went off, hitting his grandda in the foot, all hell broke loose. “What the fuck are you doing to me now? Christ, it’s not like I killed him or anything. It was a fucking accident.

Get off me, you shits. I’m going to sue you all for this.” The other guests were taken back to the parking lot where they’d started out this adventure. Mark stayed with his grandda until the other rangers came back and took pictures. Of course, it was all on all their cameras, from different views, as a matter of fact, but they’d need to document this so that when the arrest warrant was filled out for the woman, they’d have all their shit together. “You all right, son?” He told his grandda he didn’t know. “Yeah, I can see that written all over your face. Seems to me people are getting more salty daily.

What do you think?” “Salty? I suppose that’s as good a term as any. Are you all right, Grandda?” He lifted up his foot to show where the bullet had gone right through the top. “Grandma is going to be seriously mad at you. I’d not expect her to make you any pie for dinner tonight either. She doesn’t like you or any of us to be hurt.” “You think she’ll be a little less fussy with me if I tell her a madwoman did this to me? And that you had to kill three bears to save the life of eight people, three of them kids?” Mark pretended to think about it and then told his grandda he didn’t think it would be any different. “Yeah, I don’t think she’ll be any happier anyway I tell her.” ~*~ The body was still where he’d left her. The rangers, he knew, were busy this time of year—early spring meant spring breakers of all sorts. Deciding he’d have to do a better job of putting them out in the open, he decided to find himself another woman to kill.

Women were too stupid to realize they were being targeted. The Smokies were the perfect place for him to have his fun. He’d been out west at one of the larger parks, but that had become boring. There were too many visitors out there year round to make it so he could do his thing. Really, all he did was murder women, lay them out in an open field, and watch as the other animals tore into them. He didn’t rape them or mutilate them in any way that would get him caught. Just popped them in the head or heart with a bullet, then he’d lay in waiting while something found them. Usually, it was a wolf, but lately, in early spring, there had been a lot of other animals coming around to enjoy the fruits of his labor.

Making his way back to his truck, he saw the commotion going on near one of the falls. Just wandering over there to see what had happened, he saw that someone had shot three bears. He thought of their size. Most people thought of black bears as being huge. He supposed the bigger ones could be six hundred pounds tops, but little did they realize there were much bigger bears in the wild that were not only larger but more vicious than a black bear. Grizzlies were large, but the Kodiak bear was bigger by far. They were taller, being as large as ten feet tall when standing, and had a larger bone structure as well. The most dangerous bears were the grizzly and the polar bear. However, there were none of either of these bears in this park.

Sadly. When the ambulance showed up, and an old man was loaded into it, he watched for a few more minutes to see if anyone would say anything he might be able to use. But all they did was do their job quietly and with a great deal of efficiency. He knew the bears would be left where they were. The path would be closed to visitors until such time as they were taken care of by the other animals in the park. The eco system worked well here.

Watching while they drew blood, skin tissue, and other things he’d not seen them do before, he found himself a better place to watch, which had him backing into a tree and sliding down it. There hadn’t been a sound made. He was sure of it. Not a whisper of a leaf falling. Nothing shifted under his feet. Yet right now, he would swear the younger man in a ranger uniform was looking directly at him. As if he had peeled back the veneer of the forest and seen right into his head. Staring back at him, making sure not to even breathe too quickly even though he was terrified for the first time in longer than he could remember, he sat that still.

Finally, when the man broke his peering into his head—what it seemed like even now— he found himself breathing harder than he had since he’d first come to this place and had to climb the mountain. Getting down on his hands and knees, he made his way out of the area. Not sure if he was being watched anymore, he made sure he was careful where he’d put his hands and knees, never breaking a twig or crushing a leaf. As soon as he was over the hillside from them, he stood up. It took all of his willpower not to take off running the rest of the way into the town.

It was busy this time of the day, but not nearly as bad as it would be later tonight. Careful not to get too close to people, he knew that in the short walk to his favorite place to eat, he’d been brushed against by at least two dozen people. Slipping inside, he was seated right away and brought a large glass of sweet tea. The nectar of the gods as far as he was concerned. “What are you having tonight, Jon? We’ve a special running on chili mac.” He’d nearly looked around when his waiter called him Jon. It startled him that he knew his name. Not that he really knew his name, not really, but he’d been going by Jon Smyth for a few weeks now, and it seemed to suit everyone’s curiosity.

Jon told the waiter he’d have lasagna. “Yes, sir. Coming right up.” Jon Smyth. Such a stupid name now that he thought on it. However, no one questioned why he was called such a fake name. Going with it at the time had seemed like a brilliant idea. But his name, his first anyway, was really Jon. He’d have to be more careful in the future. His salad was set before him, and he picked at it. Jon wondered why anyone would eat a special in a place. Basically, it was whatever crap they had left over from the night before—or worse yet, something that was nearly ready to turn green. They’d mix it with other crap they had, and poof, they had a special.

Some people would fall for just about anything, he supposed. Like him. Jon didn’t have much in the way of confidence in people telling the truth. It stemmed, he supposed, from his mom telling him that his daddy was coming to get him and the bastard never showing up. Lies—all of them lied to him. When he’d been old enough, just barely into his teens, he’d hunted his father down and killed him. Precisely what he’d done was shove him into moving traffic, but he had done the pushing. He’d wanted to kill off his mom too, but he needed her more than he wanted her dead. There had been a couple of times he’d made her suffer at his hands. She would sometimes not give him what he wanted. Or would make him do something he didn’t think was his job. Like cleaning his room.

Christ, why did parents want you to clean your room all the time? So what if it was messy? Don’t open the door if that was your issue. Laundry wasn’t getting done? Okay, who cares? It’s his stuff. If he wanted to stink all day, then that was his problem, not hers to harp on. Besides, if he wanted clean clothing, he only had to go down to the local stores and steal what he wanted. They, too, knew better than to fuck with him. Everyone did by the time he was sixteen. His food was put in front of him, and his drink was refilled. Then the pitcher was set on the table with him. It had taken only one time of him not being happy with being hovered over while he ate before they just left him alone. No asking if everything was all right.

He was eating it, wasn’t he? There was no seeing if he needed anything else with his meal. Had he wanted anything else, he would have ordered it when he sat down. Jon often times wondered if there was a person that told the waitstaff to bother the fuck out of someone while they were eating. He didn’t get it at home, so why did he have to put up with it when he paid someone else to cook for him?

Even his check was put down without any fanfare. No pointing it out—just drop it off and take themselves elsewhere. Just the way he liked it. After eating his big lunch, he made his way back to the other end of town. There were as many attractions at this end as there were at the park entrance, but he would walk this way, head up in the woods, and make his way back to his place through the wooded mountain tops. Smiling to himself, he thought of the first time he’d done this. Jon had thought himself in fairly good shape. He didn’t exercise at all, but he did chop wood for himself. Climbed stairs when he needed to get from point ‘a’ to point ‘b.’ Then he’d moved here. The very first time he had to go through the woods to his shack, he thought he was going to die.

The air was thinner the higher you got. He knew that. But what he’d not counted on was just how difficult it was to do simple tasks, like chopping wood, building himself a better shelter, or digging a hole. Christ, he thought for sure when he got out of bed that first morning, after digging a hole deep enough to put a refrigerator in, that he’d pulled every single muscle in his body. Some he was sure that even scientists hadn’t ever encountered. After digging the second hole to put his refrigerator in, lying on its side with the lid to open up for him to store things in, he didn’t hurt as badly. The blisters had even turned to callouses, and he felt better.

The third and fourth ones were a piece of cake. Now he had a cooler system that needed no electricity to keep his perishables cold. It had been the heat that had caused him the most issues. The first time he’d set a fire in the new digs he’d built, it had smoked him out. It had taken him three more tries to figure out how to make it smokeless, so he’d not draw attention to himself. Small fires, using only dried wood, had been the trick. So when winter set in, which was earlier up here in the mountains, he was as prepared as he’d ever been. Walking along the path he’d made for himself, he was just about to cross over the fence when he heard a noise behind him. Dropping to the ground, he laid still as he waited for the sound to come again. It hit him almost as soon as he saw them that it was a sleuth of bears. A large group of them, too. He’d never seen a bear play around like these seemed to be doing. Wrestling around in the dirt, they seemed to be having a great time.

As he watched them carefully, he made his way back by sliding his body along the rocks and dirt. When he was out of sight of them, he still crawled for another fifty feet or so until he was sure they couldn’t see him. Christ, that had been scary. Getting to his home a little later than he’d thought he would, Jon was happy for the bed he’d brought up with him. The fact he’d had to bring things up in the summer made it difficult, with all the tourists around, but he’d managed to get not just a stove for his heat, but a cot with a good mattress, the refrigerators, as well as a chair. He’d made his own table, but the chairs he’d tried weren’t cutting it. Lying on his bed, he thought about what he was going to do tomorrow. The first thing he was going to have to do was find himself another woman to kill.

This time, he was going to make sure her body was found sooner. It was one thing to get his jollies in killing them, but he wanted someone to find them so they’d be worried. Rolling to his side, he thought of the first woman he’d killed since arriving here. She’d been too easy to follow. Oblivious to her surroundings, he’d killed her without much in the way of thought as to why she might be standing so close to the edge of the falls.

Hitting her in the back of the head with an ax he’d just happened to be carrying around, she was considered an accident. Falling into the water, she’d been beaten up badly, he supposed, and his hitting her hadn’t been an issue. Damn it. He’d not gotten the attention he so desperately wanted. Jon wasn’t stupid enough to think he’d not be caught killing women. He had a backup plan he carried around with him all the time. It had cost him a great deal of money and pain to have one of his teeth drilled out so the little capsule would fit inside of it. A cyanide pill that would kill him instantly.

Well, not instantly, but he’d be dead all the same. He wasn’t going back to prison. Juvie hadn’t really been a prison, he supposed, but it had been prison-like. He was monitored all the time. He didn’t get to sleep when he wanted or eat when he was hungry. It was no less than he deserved, he continued to tell himself. When you act out, as they called it, there were consequences to your actions. His had been a consequence he never wanted to repeat. Closing his eyes, he let sleep take him under. Jon wasn’t plagued with nightmares about his deeds. Nor did he have a moment’s hesitation in thinking he was some sort of monster. He did what he did because women were too stupid to realize they were the lesser sex and should have a man at their side to keep them safe. It was exactly what got his mom killed.

She’d been too carefree with her body, and someone, not him, had killed her when she didn’t put out when he was there to save her. Of course, he’d been the one that had been beating her up and only stopped when she was unconscious. But his mom hadn’t been grateful enough, as the man had thought she should have been, to suck him off. Yet another prime example of women being stupid. Waking in the middle of the night, he went out into the moonlit night to take a piss. There were creatures close by—he could see them scurrying around. Jon never bothered with a light. That would get him caught. But he did keep an eye out for anything larger than he was, as well as sliding snakes that would crawl up his pant leg in a minute. Going back inside, washing up at the water bowl he’d rigged up to take in water off the roof, Jon went right back to bed and to sleep. Tomorrow was going to be a good day. He could feel it in his bones.

Booker Wilkerson Dynasty Release Blitz and Giveaway

Charlie had been gone from the small town for several years, attending medical school with Rayne. She only returned when she got the news that her mother, the sitting judge, had been murdered. Rayne convinced her to come back home. The town needed good doctors.

Booker had just bought a huge, empty house. His cousins were going to a huge estate auction, and he figured he’d go to find some deals. His cousins were meeting their wives there. It would be fun.

Booker was having a wonderful time when he met Charlie. A spirited young woman who captured his heart from the moment they met. He couldn’t take his eyes off her.

Booker was caught up in Charlie’s enthusiasm as a first-time bidder until she got into an argument with another bidder, a bully who would win the bid even if he had to take it by force. Booker didn’t like bullies, especially a man who bullied women. Booker jumped to Charlie’s defense. That’s when things got dicey….

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PAPERBACK https://amzn.to/3GTXXr7

When Marsden Wilkerson received the phone call that his mother had been in a car accident, he wasn’t letting anything get in his way to get to her. Not a pushy boss, and especially not his Aunt Eita. Then his world crumbled when the doctors told him that his mother, Holly, didn’t make it.
Gabriella Farley, Abby, could hold her own, and she wasn’t about to take any flack from a rich bitch like Penelope Wilkerson.

All the Wilkerson women, with the exception of Holly, could fit that description. Abby stood up for Mars at the funeral home even though she really didn’t know him. What she did know was his mother, Holly, was a fine woman, and the family had given them both the shaft Mars’s entire life.

Mars wanted to apologize for his Aunt’s actions, but there was something about Abby that sparked a flame in his heart. From the first kiss, they knew they had something special, but going against the Wilkerson family could be very dangerous. Will this new love be doomed from the start?

Amy Hamilton never had much of a home life growing up. Her sister Phoenix and her mother demanded all the attention, so much so that she and her father didn’t have a relationship at all. Now that her father was filing for a divorce, he felt guilty for not being a part of her life and wanted to make up for it, but Amy wasn’t sure she was ready for that.

North Wilkerson had a similar upbringing. Although his mother was dead now, before her death, she was an awful person and an even worse mother. After having sworn off family ties to his parents, he was just now allowing his father back into his life.

Amy and Booker Wilkerson were close friends in college. Amy was only supposed to be in town for a few days, and when Booker called inviting her to dinner, she couldn’t pass up the opportunity to catch up on old times. When Booker’s cousin North and his uncle joined them for dinner, they all had a blast.

But when North just showed up at her father’s house and took over, Amy wasn’t sure what to think of him. What did he think he was doing? She barely knew him. Amy needed to nip this in the bud before it went much further. She was perfectly capable of taking care of herself. She didn’t need a man now, or would she ever need a man, any man….

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Rayne just wanted to finish nursing school and take care of her grandda. He was all she had left. She had only left the house for a short time, and when she returned, he was gone, and there was blood everywhere. She panicked. She called the number her grandda had written down for emergencies.
When Watson answered his phone, he had trouble understanding the hysterical young woman on the other end. And when he got her to calm down enough to find out what was going on, being a doctor, he was ready to help where needed. When he arrived at Mr. Oliver’s house, he was met with the most captivating woman he’d ever seen. She was perfect. Wats was so smitten, he was afraid he’d screw up before he even had a chance to ask her out.

Marsden https://amzn.to/38Zq06Y
North https://amzn.to/3jln3TR
Watson https://amzn.to/3298RG1

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Prologue


Charlie wasn’t sure what the hell she was doing. Not just here, but what she was to do if she wanted to bid on something. Abby and Amy had talked her and Rayne into coming up to this auction today to fill out their homes. She thought they had nice homes, but what did she know about being wealthy? Not a single thing. The man she’d been sort of following was helping another man in things that he should bid on and how much. She had also learned not to take the first amount that the auctioneer put out there. It was only a starting point. “Hello.” She looked around when the man she was following spoke to her. “You haven’t any idea what you’re doing, do you?” “Nope. I will admit I’m in well over my head. Like I need all kinds of things for this house I’m going to live in, but I haven’t any idea how to go about it. Like, this table here. I love it. But I don’t know what would be a good price to bid or how to even make that happen.” He asked her if she had a number yet. “Yes. I got that when we first arrived. Abby told me about that.” “Abby? You’re here with Abby Wilkerson?” She nodded, and the man laughed. “Well, isn’t this a small world. I’m her cousin-in-law, Booker Wilkerson. I’m here with my cousin, Brandon.” “Will you help me?” He said he’d love to. “Good. First thing, this table. What is a good price to pay?

I don’t want to get caught up in the bidding and forget that I’m on a budget, somewhat.” “It’s not old if that’s what you’re thinking.” She asked him how he could tell that. “Look around at all the other pieces out here. What is the one thing they have in common? I know you can see it, but it never occurred to you yet.” She knew he wasn’t talking about the age of the piece. To her, they all looked like they’d been around a long time. Then she noticed a few things she’d not before. Looking at Booker, she smiled. “Someone has taken the time to dust this piece. Why would they do something like that to a piece that’s just a table?” He told her. “I guess I can see that. Polish it up so that it’s more appealing to someone. Eye-catching, I guess you could call it. So it will more than likely go a little high when it’s probably just a table that isn’t going to last all that long. Thank you.” “You’re so very welcome. Also, you should never, if you can help it, linger too long when looking at a piece. That gives away that you’re interested. Sort of casually look at something, then look around while keeping an eye on other people that look at it. You can figure out your competition that way.” She giggled. Charlie told him he was wonderful for helping her. “I’m enjoying myself too, so it’s good for us both.” They walked around together for the next half hour. Booker pointed out things she could bid on and how much she should go. He told her when she asked him if he’d help her when the bidding started that he’d love to, but he also had to help Brandon.

“Oh, I’m sorry. You did tell me you were here with him. You have given me a lot to go on, and I appreciate that.” He told her he wasn’t going to leave her. “But what about Brandon? Won’t he be upset?” “Right now, I don’t care. You’re much prettier than he is. Plus, he’s hanging out with Abby. Who is, I might say, good at this too.” The announcement was made that bidding would begin in five minutes. “Something else you might want to do when you go to an auction is to find out who the auctioneer is and make a mental note to watch how he does things. I ask where he might be starting when he begins and also if he will have a second auctioneer selling in another area. There is only the one person here until noon. Then they’re going to sell the house and land around it. But he’s going to start with the box lots. Those are the boxes of stuff that they deemed not worth too much, and they’re getting rid of it. I find a lot of good things in those sort of boxes.” “Like what?” They were headed to the box-lots area now. “Oh, I understand now. They’re literally boxes of just stuff. I think getting a couple of those would be a blast just to go through and see what junk you can find.” She laughed. “You’d be amazed at the things my Aunt Holly and I found in them.”

She was enjoying herself so much that she nearly forgot that they were here for a purpose. “Okay, remember what I said. Stick with the price you want to pay for it, and don’t take the first amount he puts out there.” She didn’t want anything in the box he was trying to sell off, and neither did anyone else, it seemed. As the bidding didn’t generate even a buck, he added another box, then another. The box next, the one with the office things in it, was something she was interested in. When Booker leaned down and whispered in her ear, all thoughts of bidding flew out of her head. “You’ll have to take them all—remember that when you buy a bunch of boxes.” She nodded, and when the auctioneer said a dollar, she raised her hand. While she had no idea what was in the boxes that she’d want, the office equipment appealed to her. Someone put their hand up, but he was only waving at someone across from him. The auctioneer asked him to conduct his conversations elsewhere and looked at her. “You won, missy.” She jumped for joy. Laughing, she went to the auctioneer and hugged him before she realized what she was doing. Telling him it was her first auction and bidding, he laughed with her. “Well, I’m glad you came here today. Thanks for the hug too.” When she started to go for her boxes, Booker told her to wait. No one would bother with them. He purchased the next lot of eight boxes, and she bought two more at the end that were filled with glasses, as well as wine glasses that she really liked. The two of them, she thought, had gotten a lot of junk with their stuff. They started a pile by one of the trees. Booker even purchased a chair so she’d have something to sit in under the tree. When the rest of the boxes were sold off, her buying two more lots for a total of ten, the other Wilkersons joined them. They had twenty minutes before the bidding began on the furniture. “Are you having fun?” She told Abby she was having too much fun, she thought. She didn’t know how she was going to get everything in her car. “Don’t worry about that.

I called Mars, and he’s going to rent one of those hauling things to bring our stuff home in. I missed the box lots, but I see you didn’t. Would you mind if I went through them with you? Just to look at the things people consider junk?” “I’d love that.” Booker bought her lunch, as well as two bottles of water. The house, it seemed, wasn’t selling for much, and she watched Booker when he decided it would be a good investment. Charlie moved closer to him when he started to tense up when the bidding started. “You can do this.” He only glanced at her, but she could see that he was happy she’d said that. His face not only relaxed, but he wasn’t fisting his hands either. Putting her smaller hand into his much larger one, she felt like she was centered. It was a strange way to feel with only just meeting the man. Booker bought the house, or so they all thought. Since it had gone well under what they should have gotten for the place, the auctioneer had to speak to the family. Booker kissed the back of her hand when he was asked to wait until the auctioneer returned. “Thank you.” She told him he was welcome and that he had calmed her as well. “We’ll go to the furniture next. Are you ready for that?” “I believe I am.” She watched as the household things were brought out where the boxes had been. The big bed that came with several pieces of furniture caught her eye. Admiring it from a distance, she watched as others went over the stuff like they were searching for something special in it.

“Are they serious about buying it for that price? I’ve heard that some of them are only willing to go to less than a hundred dollars. That seems cheap to me.” “They’re putting that out there so that others around, like you, would hear it. They want you thinking it’s not worth all that much. But I’ve seen it in the bedroom before you got here, and it’s well worth a thousand or more. It’s very old and made of mahogany. It looks to me like it might have been handmade right here on the property. That is a really good piece.” She nodded but didn’t go near the bedroom set. She didn’t have the kind of money that would justify her paying that much for just a bedroom suite. Charlie did have her inheritance, but she was saving that for a rainy day. Booker laughed when she told him that. “My aunt would have told you that there are forever going to be rainy days, and you won’t be able to save for all of them. What you should do is make each day count so that when the rainy day does come, you have your comfort in the things you did when you had the money and time.” “I think I might have liked your aunt.” Booker kissed her then. Just a quick kiss on the mouth. “That was nice. Booker, I’m beginning to like you a great deal. Is that odd?” “No. It’s the way it should be. Come on, let’s get us a place to bid on the things that we want. If you want the bedroom suite, then you get it. I’ll even help you pay for it if it comes to being close to your limit.” It didn’t bother her that he was willing to do that. For some reason, it seemed right that they purchased the set together. Shaking her head at the nonsense in it, she moved to the group of people that had gathered around not just the bedroom suite but the table and chairs that had been brought out as well.

“That is beautiful. Don’t you think?” “It is.” A thought popped into her head in that moment. Of him sitting at one end of the table and her at the other, with people seated down either side with children in their arms. The thought, or vision, was so vivid that her breath caught when she realized this was their children and grandchildren. “Booker, something isn’t right about this.” “I know.” She had a feeling he did know, and she nodded too. “We’ll figure things out when we get back home. All right. Today, let’s just fill out our home.” She nearly missed bidding on the bedroom suite. Her mind was filled with words like home. Our. Even the vision of them and a large family. When Booker poked her in the ribs, she looked at the auctioneer when he started the bidding out at six thousand dollars. When he got back down to a hundred dollars, a man in the crowd behind her said, “Here.” She didn’t turn and glare at him as she wanted to do but kept her eye on the man doing the fast-talking. Booker told her to wait to see where it went and if anyone was going to bid with them. When he told her now, she lifted her hand up to bid one-fifty. The man behind her moved up to where they were standing. She saw him out of the corner of her eye and didn’t like that he was staring at her. When Booker moved between the two of them, she felt better. The man started cursing quietly at first, then he started getting a little louder.

“Nothing is going to happen to you, love. All right? Just do what you’re doing, and it’ll be all right.” Then the man shoved Booker into her. It wasn’t a light push either. Both of them nearly tumbled to the ground. “Excuse me. You nearly knocked us down.” The man bumped Booker in the chest with his belly. Then he started talking to him in another language. While she had no idea what was being said, Booker did and was talking to the man calmly and without raising his fists up like the other man was. “Hey. Hey now. What’s all this about?” Booker told the auctioneer that the man had insulted his wife. Had called her a slut, and said that she only wanted the bed to entertain other men on. “He said that to you? What the hell—pardon me, ma’am—but what the hell is he being upset about? It’s only an auction.” The man said something else, and Booker looked at the auctioneer. There were some very tense-filled moments there while neither of them spoke as the man went on and on about something. Not only did Abby join them, but all the Wilkersons stood up behind them. “Mars, are you with this group?” He said he was. That this was his family. “This isn’t right. Not to you or anyone in your family. But to be insulting like this to a pretty woman is just beyond what I think is right.” “I agree, Mr. Shadow.” He asked the man to leave, and he just stood there, staring at her. Finally, when she’d had enough, she pushed her way in front of Booker, and he put his hands gently on her shoulders.

“You’re a nasty bully.” She asked Booker to translate for her. He said that he understood what she was saying. “You are the meanest man I’ve met. We were all having a good time until you had to get all up in arms about a bedroom suite. What is the matter with you? Don’t you have any man—?” The blow to her face knocked her back. She not only saw stars, but she was sick with the pain of it. Closing her eyes when it became too much for her, Charlie wondered what her mother would say to her now. She’d think it was funny, she’d bet. There were noises going on, cursing too, but in the end, she just let go. Letting the pain take her under so that she’d not feel it for a while. ~*~ Wats was as pissed off as he’d ever been. Someone had actually hit a woman because she was bidding against him. Every time he thought about him hitting Charlie, he had to stop what he was doing and take a deep breath. “This will go a good deal faster if you would just let your wife fix me up.” He said he knew that, but he was safer in here. “Why? The guy was arrested, you told me.” “But I know where they took him.” Charlie laughed, then moaned. “I’m sorry you were hurt. But if it’s any consolation, you got the bedroom suite for nothing.” “Booker told me.” She looked around, then back at him. “May I ask you a question? You don’t have to answer, but please don’t make fun of me. All right?” “Yes. But you should know that I don’t lie.

If you ask me something, you’d better be prepared for the answer. Ask me.” She did. He had to think about his answer hard before he answered her. “You’re worried that you’re falling in love with my cousin? How is that something I’d make fun of you about?” “I’ve only just met him today. I mean, literally today. He’s kind and wonderfully sweet. He doesn’t rush into things. Nor does he, and this is a biggy, treat me like I’m some sort of bimbo that he needs to protect.” He laughed with her. “I suppose looking at me, you’d think I do need a protector. But he didn’t shove me out of the way when I went to talk to the man. I know it was a stupid thing for me to do. I mean, I should have let someone handle it for me, but he didn’t do anything.” “Actually, he did.” She asked him what he was talking about. “My wife can’t come here and take care of you because she’s taking care of Booker. He has a broken wrist as well as needing stitches in both his lip and his hand. He knocked the man to his ass with one blow. He came up with a gun, believe it or not. But Booker didn’t back down, he— Where are you going? I still need to stitch you up.” “Where is he?” Wats followed her, but not too closely. He could tell that she was pissed off, and he didn’t want to come between her and her anger. “Booker Wilkerson, where the hell are you?” He yelled that he was here, so she went to find him. As soon as they entered the room he’d been put in, Wats cringed. It was going to take him longer to heal from his wounds than it would Charlie, of that he was sure. Charlie asked him if he had a brain injury that she needed to be made aware of.

“Not that I’m aware of, no.” Wats noticed that everyone seemed to leave them alone except him and Rayne. He was staying for the fun—he had no idea why Rayne was. “I was mad that he hit you.” “I was too, but you should have let the police handle it when he pulled out a gun.” Booker looked at him, then back at Charlie. She did the same but looked at Booker. “What? Something you’re not telling me.” “He was going to kill you.” Charlie looked at Wats again. At his nod, she turned to Booker again. “I was willing to let the police handle it. I was sure that if I started on him, I would have killed him. But he pulled out the gun with the intention of killing you. He announced to everyone that you were one dead slut.” Booker stood up and made his way to Charlie. When she went into his arms willingly, Wats asked if they could finish stitching them up. They didn’t want the swelling to get too much before they could get that done. “I missed getting that table for our house.” Wats didn’t say anything about what Charlie said, but he did glance at his own wife. “This is so unfair. My very first auction and I have to get next to some dummy head that had to ruin it all for me.” “They stopped the auction.” Charlie asked Rayne what she meant. “No one here wanted to go on without you there. The police are still here, of course, but the others voted to wait to see if you were going to join them again.

The people here, they’re really impressed with the two of you.” “We didn’t do anything,” Wats told her what he’d seen. “Okay, we did take on a bully, but we wouldn’t have had to if he’d been a nicer person. What did he say to you?” Booker said it wasn’t nice, and wanted to leave it at that. Wats was sure that Charlie was going to push it, but she laid down on the bed that Booker was on so she could be stitched up as well. It took them more time than it normally would have because the two of them were talking to each other. Wats thought he was seeing the first blossoms of love. When they were released to go back to the auction, people cheered for them. A couple of women told Booker he could defend their honor anytime he wanted. It was embarrassing to him. Wats could tell. Everyone was good-natured about it, and the police asked if they could talk to the two of them when the auction was over. Wats was very proud of his family right then. Mars said he’d bid for them, but Charlie declined. She said her fun had been delayed, and she wanted to get back into it now. But she kissed him on the cheek for being so sweet, and then she turned to the auctioneer, asking him if he was ready. “Yes, ma’am, I am. I have to tell you, I was never so terrified in my life as when that man said he was going to kill you. I thought for sure my heart was gonna stop when that husband of yours just stood up and knocked his gun away. Goodness.” Charlie thanked him. “My wife, she said she’s going to be watching for you from now on. You surely do get the job done when someone is nasty to you.” There was some fun made when Charlie bid on the dining set. They teased them both about being careful not to bid against them. As was Booker’s nature, he got a kick out of it and didn’t anger.

Wats only then realized it was the first time he’d truly ever seen his cousin pissed. He was usually one that would just walk away. This was a first for all of them today. Not only did she win the dining set, but she also was able to bid and get two more bedroom suites. He wasn’t sure, but he thought he’d found someone that loved auctions as much as Booker and Aunt Holly had. She was getting good at knowing when to stop, too. As they were loading up the things on the truck Wats had gotten, Booker asked him for something for his headache. After checking him out, he told him he wanted some pictures of his head if he didn’t mind. When he agreed, that worried him just a little, but Booker assured him it was only a headache. Uncle Josiah showed up just as the auction was coming to an end. “There you are.” Booker shook hands with the auctioneer and told him he ran a good auction. “You’re a good man to have around. I don’t suppose you have yourself a shop, do you? I mean, the way your missus was buy—” “Missus?” Uncle Josiah looked around, then at his son. “Oh, yes. All right. But we do need to talk about some things later, son. All right?” Uncle Josiah looked confused, but he wasn’t going to embarrass them by asking questions now. Charlie asked him what he had in mind when the auctioneer asked about the shop. “Well, you see all this stuff that people leave behind? Some of it is worth a little bit. A lot of it they just leave behind because they’ve realized they don’t have the room to take it with them. I need someone I can call on to come and pick it up for me, and I’ll pay you to do it. It won’t be a lot, mind you, but a couple of dollars a box should cover you coming and getting it. If you’ve got a mind to.” Booker looked at his dad.

“Will you go into partnership with me, Dad? I’ve decided I’ve had enough of teaching for a while, and I want to do something different. With you.” Uncle Josiah looked like he was going to cry, and Wats patted him on the back. “We just purchased a house that I think will be perfect for odds and ends. My wife here is a doctor now, so she can afford to keep me in pocket money.” “I’d love nothing more.” While Wats didn’t know what house Booker was referring to, everyone was happy all the way around. “But first, I’d like for you to get to the hospital. The police said they’d make sure that the bill was paid by that moron.” “Do you want this to start now, Mr. Shadow?” Wats had forgotten the man’s name and was glad that Charlie knew it. “We have enough help here today to load this up if you want. I mean, if that’s all right with the rest of you.” “I have a better idea.” Mars looked at Booker, then at him. “You go to the hospital with these two and make sure they’re all right. The rest of us will do the cleanup and take it where you want.” “I bought this house. I think it will be perfect for where we can start out.” They began to take the boxes and other things into the truck while he and Rayne loaded the two of them up in his car. He was beginning to worry about Booker, as he was too agreeable to going.

He was going to keep him overnight just to make sure, no matter what the X-ray told them. The ride to the hospital was quiet. He could hear Charlie and Booker talking to each other, but they were too quiet for him to hear. When Rayne took his hand into hers, he looked over at her. “She loves him.” Wats said he could see that too. “I think he loves her as well. He surely has taken a beating for her if he doesn’t.” “They’ll be all right, don’t you think?” She asked him if he was worried about Booker. “Yes. He’s not himself. I’m worried that there is something more wrong with him. I only checked his head. What if he was hurt elsewhere? I’m going to keep them both overnight, even if I have to beat the two of them into submission.” Rayne agreed with him. And that made him more worried than he’d been before. ~*~ Rayne read the X-rays three times before she was satisfied with the results. Not that she was happy with what she saw, but she knew they were lucky that she and Wats had brought them into the hospital. Charlie had a concussion and two broken ribs, more than likely from falling over when hit. Wats joined her just as she was going to go see Charlie. “He was shot. The shithead was shot, and he didn’t say a word about it.” Rayne asked how bad it was. “He was shot. Bad enough that I’m worried.” “You’re worried because he’s your relative.

Tell me what you really think, like he’s no relation to you.” Wats said it was serious, but not that bad. “Good. She has a concussion. So getting them to stay will be easier since they’ll both be here.” “I have him going into surgery now. I can’t join him there, but I can be with him when he gets out. He also has a concussion and four broken ribs. I’m sure he’s also got a couple of broken fingers.” Rayne said he was a good man. “What do you mean? He was shot and didn’t tell anyone.” “He didn’t want to freak you out. Or, for that matter, Charlie.” He’d not thought of that. “Would you have let them stay there had you known? I wouldn’t have. But Charlie got to have a good time, and her day wasn’t totally ruined by that man. Booker was a good man in being stoic and not worrying her or any of us too much.” “You know, he’s always been like that. I remember once him having a broken hand during a football game.” She asked how he’d gotten it. “He was the quarterback. I guess he was too good, and the other team thought they could take him out. But he played the rest of the game and even won before he let on that he was injured. I should have remembered that.” Rayne went to tell Charlie that she was spending the night. Wats told her that Booker was going to be fine but that he’d sustained a larger issue. Charlie had to threaten his life before he finally told her what had happened. She sat there for several moments without speaking, only to look at them with tears in her eyes. “He said he loved me. We only met today, but it seems right. I don’t know what to do about it. I mean, we only just met.” Rayne asked if she loved him. “Yes. I don’t know how that happened either, but knowing what he did for me today makes me love him all the more.

Does that make sense to you?” “Absolutely. It’s the same thing for Wats and I.” Rayne sent Wats on an errand while she sat on the side of the bed with Charlie. “He’s going to be fine, you know. And if he won’t behave, one of the others will sit on him until he does.” “Wats asked me to be his partner in his office. Are you going to be all right with that?” Rayne told her she was, that she was family now. “I guess I will be. Josiah, he was certainly confused. But he was really nice about not giving us up about the lie. It was nice, too, being called Mrs. Wilkerson.” “It is. Very nice. And you couldn’t be joining a better family.” Rayne called in the staff to make sure they started an IV for her, and told her that she’d let her know when Booker was out. Then when she left Charlie to her nurse, she stopped at the desk and asked if they could put Booker into the room with Charlie. “They’ll be roaming the halls if you don’t.” “We can arrange that, Dr. Wilkerson. My goodness, there are going to be a lot of you Wilkersons around here, aren’t there? We’ll have to make sure we use your initials, or we’ll all be messed up.” Rayne nodded and left to find Wats. It was the first time she’d been called Doctor Wilkerson by staff. It felt damned good. As they waited for Booker to come out of surgery, Rayne made a couple of phone calls. One to her aunt to let her know where they were, and the second call to Josiah.

He had asked her to call when they found out anything. He told her that he’d be right there. Wats went home to get Louis so that he could hang out with the others. He was becoming a wonderful part of the family quickly. Rayne’s phone rang, and she almost didn’t answer it. Her aunt had called her several times over the last few days, and she wasn’t ready to talk to her yet. But this time, armed with her anger that her newest family members had been hurt, as well as liking Charlie, she answered the phone with her title and Wilkerson. “Where is Selma?” Rayne asked who it was, knowing full well that it was Aunt Becky. “Don’t be a smart ass. Tell me where that sister of mine is. I have a mind to give her a piece of my mind.” “I’m sure you couldn’t afford to give her any of your mind. You have seemed to lost your marbles anyway if you think that she’s going to forgive you for treating her and me the way you did.” Becky snorted. “You think I’m kidding? I’m not. I’m happy. I have children that I love and Aunt Selma to talk to when I need an adult. You were never there for me. While you didn’t beat me, you were so verbally abusive to me that it made me feel like shit all the time.” “I kept you in line.” This time she snorted. “Where is she? I want to know why she’s changed the locks on our house. I need to get in and get some things out of it.” “Not without the police and Aunt Selma there you’re not. Besides, it’s not ‘our’ home. It’s Aunt Selma’s. She told me how you moved in with her like she needed you.” Aunt Becky said she had. “Nope. Aunt Selma is a good deal stronger than you’ve ever given her credit for. Besides, I’m thinking you need to find yourself a home anyway. She’s selling that one soon.”

“Why would she—? You did that, didn’t you? Just to see me on the streets. Well, I have money, so I can buy any home I want. You just wait and see.” Rayne told her she didn’t care if she had a house or not. “What a rude person you’ve turned out to be. My goodness, I should probably have beaten you once or twice to get that nastiness out of you. You should be nicer to me. I’m the only relative you have besides Selma. Did she tell you that she’s dying? Well, she is.” “We’re all dying, Aunt Becky. And you both being in your seventies isn’t a big stretch in knowing that you’re going to die too. But if you mean the cancer, yes, she told me about it. She also told me she’s in remission. I have a feeling you would have left that part out had I not heard.” Nothing. Not a denial or anything. “By the way, Grandda is fine as well. He’s been having fun with our children. He said it makes him feel decades younger to be a great grandda.” “He should have died long ago, the old buzzard. He’s just hanging on because he wants one of us to die first.” She thought that was as good a reason as any and told her aunt that. “Have you always been a terrible person, or am I just noticing it?” “Always have been. Always will be.” She saw the surgeon coming down the hall. Charlie was just joining them in a wheelchair when he stopped to talk to them all. “I have to go. I’m not asking you for permission to hang up, Aunt Becky, because I know you well enough to not allow it. But I’ll talk to you some other time.” Simply closing the connection, she stood up when Doctor Moran Davis sat across from Charlie. Since he and everyone else was going on the notion that she was Booker’s wife, he was going to speak to her first. “He’s come through well. The bullet didn’t do much damage.

But he will need to rest up and behave himself for the next week or so. He had a lot of injuries and is lucky his head is hard.” He looked at Wats. “I did take a look at his head. You’re right. It was a good-sized gash. I opened it up while I was in the sterile room and washed it out while I had him under. I hope you don’t mind that I did that.” “No. I’m glad you did it. I don’t want anything to happen to him.” Wats looked relieved. “I was concerned when he wasn’t arguing with us about bringing him in. He’s not one to go to the doctor all that well.” “Well, he’s in good hands, I believe.” Doctor Davis looked at Charlie. “I’m to understand that you’re going to be a physician here as well. You need anything, Charlie, you just let me know. I’m new as the head of this department, and I’m trying to make my way into getting things on a better standing between doctors and nurses. If you need anything, I’m serious, you just call me or come by.” It was another hour before they got to see Booker. Rayne could tell he was in a great deal of pain, so when he was taken to his room, sharing it with Charlie, she rushed the rest of them out of the room so he could get some meds and rest. Yes, Rayne thought this was a good family to be in with. Louis was holding Wesley’s hand when he got off the elevator. It was a good sight to see, the two of them. When he saw her, he came to her slowly. As soon as he was close enough, she gave him a big hug, then pulled out her phone to show him what they’d gotten for him today.

“The bunk beds will be nice if you want to have someone stay over. And look at this old flag. I thought if you wanted to, you could hang it on your wall.” He looked at the pictures as she showed him, and she knew he had questions. “If you don’t like it, Louis, we can sort that out later. I just thought bunk beds would be nice for your new room.” “Are you going to send me back?” She asked him where she’d send him. “To my dad. He will come and get me. I don’t ever want to go back there again. I like having stuff I can wear that is clean and stuff.” “I like you being there with us too, Louis. But in answer to your question, no, he’s not going to get you again. They found your momma. Did you hear that?” He nodded. Louis had told the police that she had been buried in the back yard near the apple tree. “And Brenda is in jail too. They’ll never get by any of us to get to you again. I swear to you on my life.” He played with her badge while he stood there next to her. She didn’t rush him. The teachers she’d spoken to about Louis said he was a thinker and that if someone rushed him, he’d tighten up tighter than a rubber band around a wrist. When he did look up at her, she smiled at him when he grinned. “Grandpa Wesley said him and me would go fishing.

I’ve never been, but when he told me he’d not been in years, I thought for sure he was kidding me.” Rayne couldn’t imagine the man with a fishing pole in his hand. “He told me if I wanted to, and I got good grades, him and me could have a lot of first times together. He even wants to go camping with me. I’ve slept outside before. I don’t think it’ll be the same with him, do you?” “No. I’m sure you’re going to have all the things necessary to make it a safe and fun trip. You might even make your food over an open fire.” He warmed to that idea, then looked at her pictures again. “Do you not want the bunk beds?” “No. I want them. That way, when Grandpa Wesley comes to read to me, we can rest up in the same room. He’s pretty tired when he leaves me at night.” She’d known Wesley was reading to Louis, just not that it had been nightly. “I’ll be a really good boy for you, Mrs. Wilkerson. I promise you.” “I know that, Louis. But not too good, all right? I mean, we have to be able to ground you to the house so we can spend more time with you once in a while.” She tickled him until he yelled for mercy. When Wats joined her in their talk, she went to check on Charlie. She woke her up, she thought. “I’m sorry.” “Don’t be. I was watching Booker.” Coming into the room when asked, she stood by the bed so she could see how Charlie was doing. “I think my mom wouldn’t be the least bit surprised that I fell for a Wilkerson. I mean, sheesh, she surely did talk about them a great deal. I’m so happy I’m going to be a part of this family that I could bust.” “I know how you feel.” They both watched Booker breathing. “I just learned that you’re going to have to keep an eye on Booker. He’s sometimes a little stubborn when he’s hurt and won’t go to get checked out. They all have stories about him doing that.”

“I will.” Charlie took her hand into hers. “Thank you.” Rayne asked her for what. “Not treating me like I wasn’t good enough for him. For welcoming me to the family with open arms. I can’t believe it’s only been a few days, but I feel like I’ve known you all forever. It’s a wonderful feeling.” “It really is.” She sat there with Charlie for a little while longer. As her eyes finally closed, she checked on Booker and left them there. She was glad to have a family like this one. Rayne would be on her toes to keep them healthy and well, but she was looking forward to that as well.

Heath Release Blitz and Giveaway

Paige Avery had been deep, undercover with her brother, James. Their target had been spotted, but something went wrong. The bullets came from everywhere, killing most of the people in the room. Sent to retrieve them, Rebel Marshall popped in and took the unconscious Page and James back to her home to recover. If Paige and James hadn’t already been immortal, they would have died for sure. As it was, Paige was too weak to shift, and until she could, it would be a long recovery.
Heath found James in the barn. The man seemed friendly enough, but Heath didn’t trust strangers easily. Heath was ready to go about his business when he smelled the boy. The boy was hurt and hiding it well, that is until he crumpled from the pain. Heath called for Rodney, and they got the boy back to the house.  
Paige shouldn’t have been out of bed, but her concern for her nephew had her moving slowly. Told to sit in a chair before she hurt herself further, Paige caught Heath’s scent and realized he was her mate, and a string of curses flew out of her mouth in seven different languages.

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ITUNES COMING SOON

Harrison Parker had no family and no ties. She was invisible to be traced. Her job with the government was top secret. So secret that she only reported to two people. Now, she was the target and she had to figure out who wanted her dead. Hurt, and laying low, she reached out to the only man she trusted, an old man she had befriended in the cemetery, Sheppard Marshall.

Sheppard Marshall had been grieving the loss of his Millie for the last fifteen years. He would sit by her grave every day. He was an old man of ninety, and he looked forward to the visits he received from the sassy woman, Harrison Parker. Over time he had grown very fond of her, and when he received the message that she needed his help, Sheppard would help her or die trying.

His grandson, Sheppard or Shep, wasn’t letting the old man go alone. If he got hurt, Shep wouldn’t be able to live with himself. Even though the Marshall men were jaguars, that didn’t mean the old man couldn’t get into a situation that got him hurt or possibly killed.

The bullet had gone clear through, but the poison it had been laced with left Harrison with a high fever and near death. Shep didn’t know what this woman was into, but he knew two things—she was dangerous, and she was his mate. What kind of mess had the old man gotten him into now?

Isabella Booth was tired of all the sexist crap handed to her on a daily basis.  When her father wouldn’t even consider her as an heir to his lawn care business because she wasn’t a man, and left it to her brother Hunter instead, she had done the next logical thing. She opened her own lawn care business, and it thrived.

Dean Marshall was renovating his family home. As far as the landscaping was concerned, he was told to go big or go home. When Shep invited the owner of the landscaping company to his home for dinner, Dean wanted to be there to see about getting some things done for his place. He didn’t mean for his jaguar to knock the woman to the ground.

Bella was thoroughly pissed when the big cat ruined her jeans and favorite shoes, and when he announced that they were mates, Bella was seeing red. No way, no how, was she having another sexist, overbearing man in her life. Not if she could help it….

Lachlan Russell had been rushed into emergency surgery. Her boss’s daughter took exception to Lach, telling her no, and went ballistic, throwing anything and everything she could at Lach until Lach finally collapsed from her injuries. Lach was also pregnant at the time, tricked into being a surrogate to carry her sister’s child.

Harris Marshall, Shep’s wife, was called in on the case. Lach’s boss and daughter were now both in jail, but Lach’s family was another matter—they were worse. Harris would make sure this woman pulled through if she had to kill Lach’s family to see to it. Calling in reinforcements, her brother-in-law, Oakley, was the first to arrive at the hospital.

Oakley was thrilled to have found his mate. As far as he was concerned, Lach was perfect. But her sister and brother-in-law were both insane. Would he and his family be enough to protect her from their madness?

Rebel had been called to the US when she’d been informed that her brother was dying, but she arrived too late. He left behind a devastated wife, two small children, and a load of debt. Rebel stayed to help out as best she could, taking a job at the local hospital, but working conditions there were unbearable, and she had no choice but to quit or kill someone—namely the head nurse. And as a doctor, she had taken an oath to save lives, not take them.

Rodney ran a small practice. He handled the medical care for the local schools and worked at the hospital when needed for emergencies. And when a little boy came into his office to get stitched up from being ambushed by bullies, Rodney knew he had to get to the bottom of the problem. When the boy’s Aunt Rebel shows up and takes over, Rodney instantly knows who she is to him—his mate. Having to approach her with the subject had his cat curling up inside him. He had watched his brothers flounder around with their new mates, and he didn’t want to start off on the wrong foot.

It didn’t take but a minute for Rebel to assess the new situation, and she wasn’t sure how she felt about it. She also needed a job, not a handout. She was a doctor, damn it, and a good one. No man, especially one she didn’t know, was going to order her around. If he thought he could, she’d let him know fast that she was no pushover.

 

Marshall’s Shadow
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2.Dean https://amzn.to/2H88RM4
3.Oakley https://amzn.to/3i0qNci
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Leslie Morgan’s Leap Release Blitz & Giveaway

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?

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I TUNES Coming Soon
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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 pot shot 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.

Carroll https://www.amazon.com/Carroll-Morgans-Leopards-Shapeshifter-Romance-ebook/dp/B08Y7VVLJL/ref=sr_1_2?dchild=1&keywords=carroll+by+kathi+s+barton&qid=1633185135&sr=8-2

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Nicole Morgan Signed Cup
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Ann Ivey Signed Paperback
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Happy Reading,

Leslie made his way to the side of the house, where the wraparound porch made the corner. Sliding to the floor, he stretched out his legs and let out a long slow breath. It wasn’t as if he wasn’t used to having the house at high decibels all the time. It was just too much with all the women and others there as well. When the door opened and closed at the front of the house, Leslie wondered if his mom was coming out to scold him or to join him. He was surprised to see Venetia standing at the railing, not five feet from where he was sitting. “I’m remembering more and more all the time.

There are a great many things I’d like to forget, but one I did want to share with you is that I knew that Betty and Sherman weren’t my parents. They told me when I fell from the bleachers at school and broke my ankle. They didn’t know any of my history.” She looked at him. “Are you unhappy with me being your mate?” “Not at all. Nervous? Yes, I’m that. But not unhappy. I was overwhelmed by all the noise in the place.” She nodded as if she understood that as well. “Would you like to take a walk? I can show you around, and we can get to know one another.” “I’d love that.”

He got up and stretched. “You’re very tall, aren’t you? I was going to say large, but that’s not all. You’re in great shape and have good bones.” “It’s the magic that keeps us trim. And the fact that we all work around here. I’ll point out some of the things going on as we walk if you’d like.” Again, she said that would be good. “We’ll start this way. I’ve been craving an apple for most of the morning. Mom handed them out to your parents, which is good. I’m glad everyone is enjoying the fruits of our labors and—I’m babbling. I don’t usually get all tongue-tied when I’m talking. I think it’s mostly because you’re so beautiful, and I want to make a good impression.”

“You have. All of you have. I don’t know my biological parents all that well, but they’ve been singing your praises since they arrived.” They started for the woods as she continued to tell him what her parents were saying. “I like your mom, too. And Hanna. She’s very intense, but I like her very much.” “She and Carroll are going to have a baby. We’re all still trying to figure out how that is going to work.” Venetia asked him what he meant. “We’re the first shifters, and since we were made by two leopards, we’ve no idea if she’ll have kittens that will shift or humans that will shift. But whatever they have, we’ll all love them and protect them with our lives.”

“I don’t know you well enough to judge, but it’s been my experience that people talk a big game and don’t follow through on their promises.” He said they would. “As I said, I don’t know you well enough yet to say yes or no. I’m not trying to pick a fight with you, Leslie. I believe you when you say it, but humans aren’t usually so good about following through on promises. You do know I’m a witch, don’t you?” “I do. I didn’t until you found out, but yes. It doesn’t bother me if that is what you’re asking. In fact, I’m glad that if something—” “Your lordship.

You must go to the river. Now.” He took off in the direction of the river after asking Venetia to please be careful. The urgency of Hale’s voice had him running. Shifting to his cat so he could move faster, he arrived at the river’s edge in record time. “There. See it?” The car was upside down in the water. Shifting once again, he was able to roll the car to an upright position. It was then he saw the car had two children inside, with two adults in the front. Smashing one of the windows, which were all closed, he pulled the man out first. “I can bring the car to the edge.” Venetia did just that, pulling the car right out of the fast-moving water and onto the edge of the shoreline.

“I’m sending the faeries up and down the river to see if there are any others around.” “Good thinking. Thanks.” Coming out of the water, he was embarrassed slightly that he’d not thought to dress himself. As soon as he did, he laughed when Venetia’s cheeks were as red as he was sure his were. “I didn’t think beyond getting the people out of the car.” “That’s fine.” The two of them pulled the people from the car. “Can you save them?” “Yes. However, not the man. He’s been dead too long for me to be able to bring him back without consequences.” Nodding, he pulled the smallest child—he thought her to be about six or seven months old—from the car seat and laid her on the ground.

They realized the little boy was hurt badly after she was able to bring him back. “They were drugged. There is a great deal of something in their system. They would have not been able to survive had you not been warned. The poison in their bodies was lethal.” “Do you know what it was?” She said it was heroin. “All of them, or just the children? The reason I ask is, the man was shot in the head, and the gas pedal was pushed down. Also, and I have no idea why this just popped into my head when I opened the door just now, the lights came on, as well as the sounds. So I’m thinking they weren’t in the water very long.” “I think you might be correct.”

Leslie reached out to his family and let them know what was going on. The baby started crying but quieted down some when the little binkie thing was put into her mouth. “There are things about this that make me think the woman was supposed to live. She wasn’t buckled in, nor did there seem to be much in the way of drugs in her system.” Just as Venetia was going to say more, the woman woke up and started screaming. Nothing she was saying, however, was helpful in getting to the bottom of what had happened here today. “My babies. My little babies. They’re dead.” Venetia told her that they weren’t, actually. The look of shock was there and gone so quickly that had he not been looking at her, he would have missed it. “They’re all right? When we went into the water, I thought we were all dead.”

“No. Just the man there.” She looked in the direction that Venetia pointed. “He didn’t drown, either. I think he was murdered before going into the water.” “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” She looked around. “Where is Wendy? She was in the backseat as well.” Looking along the shoreline, he saw Hale, Venetia’s faerie, and Noodle, his faerie, laying a child on the ground. When he started for them, Noodle told him to stay away, then came to stand on his shoulder so she could speak to him. “The child is fine, your lordship.

She is afeared of her mother. Wendy, her name is, said her mother shot her daddy. She thought her asleep, as the others were. The little tyke said she pretended to fall asleep with the others so she could save them. But she hit her head and must have fainted before she could act.” He asked if she could be taken to the house to be kept safe. “Yes. I’ll take her myself. Also, you should know that the babe has been drugged before. The mother isn’t a nice person.” “I’d say you were right.” He asked if they had a name other than Wendy. Noodle told him all he knew was the child’s first name.

“My family is coming here now. Go to my mom and tell her what you told me. Then if you could have Daniel come here in the cruiser, we’ll get this straightened out quickly.” The children were still upset, and the boy—his name was Sammy, it turned out—was sick. Twice now, he’d thrown up, and his mother ignored him for the most part. Looking at Venetia when she coughed, he watched as she put her finger to her lips and pointed at the woman. She was talking to herself, thinking that neither of them could hear her.

“What the fuck? What the glorious fuck? You couldn’t even make sure you weren’t found, could you, Samuel?” Leslie watched as she kicked the dead man. “I was going to be saved while you and the brats were dead. Mother fuck, I hate you more now than I did when you were living.” “Hello, son.” He turned and hugged his mom while she fussed over the children. Handing each of them a bottle of juice, she changed out the one for the baby to a bottle of milk. “There you go. You just drink that down, and you’ll feel so much better.” Mom picked up the baby and looked at Leslie.

“Daniel is on his way. Noodle is getting things ready at the house for our guests. The dray horses are being brought in to pull the car to the driveway so it can be taken away as well. Are you all right, Venetia?” “Yes. Just peachy.” There was a tone there that made him think she was far from peachy. But she did smile at Mom. “I’m assuming you’ve been privy to the things going on around here?” “Yes. Hanna has been keeping us all updated.” Mom winked at him before speaking to the other woman. “This is Mrs. Rebecca Canavan. Her husband was Samuel. The two children here are Sammy and Bethy.”

“Where is Wendy? When you were saving the rest of us, where is Wendy?” Mom told Rebecca she was safe at her home. “Your home? Why? How did she get there? She was in the car with us when my husband decided to take a leap into the river.” “I don’t think so.” Hanna hugged first Venetia then him as she continued. Rebecca asked her what that was supposed to mean. “Samuel was dead a full hour before you put him in the car.

The children had been drugged about the time you decided you didn’t want them around you anymore either. You’ll not lie to anyone again, Rebecca. By the way, your lover has been taken into custody. He is singing to anyone that is willing to listen about how you had the perfect plan. You should have made sure you really had drugged the children before you assumed they were unable to listen to your plans.” “What did that brat say?” She seemed to realize what she’d said and smiled. “I’m a little stressed about all this. What did Wendy have to say about anything going on? Just so you know, I’ve had disciplinary trouble with her for the last few years.”

“Yes, you have. But only because you didn’t like her telling Samuel there what you were up to. Why don’t you tell us how you worked the plan out, Rebecca? I’m sure now that the police are here, you’d like to get it off your chest.” Rebecca bit her lips so hard they were bleeding profusely. “Tell us. Now.” “I hate them all. All of them were sucking the life right out of me. I wanted to get the insurance money so I could go off and reinvent myself.” Mom asked about Samuel. “Samuel? Christ, if there was a more stupid father and lackluster person in the world, I’d never want to meet them. He would do anything for me but have his body thrown from the car so he’d not be found until he was nothing more than fish food. The kids too.

Christ, how did Wendy survive that shit? I’ll tell you how. She has nine lives. If you knew how many times I tried to rid my body of her before she came squirting out, you’d give me the golden ring. Then, after she was born, all she did was try and find ways to make me look bad. I should have shot her too. All of them.” Sammy got up and came to sit on Leslie’s lap. Mom was feeding the baby still, and Venetia stood nearby. Rebecca was unhinged. Not only that, he was sure this wasn’t her first attempt at getting rid of her family. She kept talking about how she would try again and that she’d win next time.

Win what, he didn’t even want to hazard a guess about. Daniel kept telling Rebecca that he was recording everything she said. The horses arrived just as a couple of Feds walked onto the scene. They were still in town for the things that had been found on the Mission property. Once she was taken into custody, kicking and screaming about how it was Samuel’s fault they were all alive, Mom handed him the baby. Hooking up the car to the horses didn’t take any time at all, and they were on their way in a few minutes.

When they arrived at the house, he handed the baby over to Venetia so he could talk to Daniel first, as he had been first on the scene. Venetia would too, but he wasn’t going to mess this up for the kids. Their mother was going to prison, hopefully for a very long time. Leslie had been a police officer before. He, along with his brothers, had been a lot of different things. Being a cop was something he didn’t like at all, not even on the best days. Daniel seemed to be having a better time than he’d been having before. Having had his Parkinson’s taken care of certainly made him more relaxed about everything, he thought. Rebecca was taken away once she was able to tell her story again. It seemed like a slam dunk, but he knew better than to count on that. Stranger things had happened before.

As he held the baby while Venetia told her side of what happened, Wendy came to sit next to him and her sister. “She’s so little, and Mom wanted her dead.” Leslie told her he was sorry for that. “Me too. I tried hard to make sure she was no trouble, but I couldn’t take her to school with me. She would give her drugs while I was gone. I’m so sorry about that.” “You did everything you could, honey. Including telling the police what you’d seen at the time of your father’s death.” She nodded as she held onto Bethy’s hand. “My brother, the doctor, Marley, said all of you are in good shape but need to eat better. I don’t think you’ll have that trouble for very long. My mom and my brothers will keep you here until someone can be notified to come and get you. Do you have any aunts or uncles that might want to take care of you guys?”

“Nobody is left. Mom had a brother, but he killed himself a few years ago.” She looked up at him with shock on her face. “Do you think she killed him too? I’d not put it past her anymore. She killed the lady that came to dust the house too. The police officer wants me to go and show him where the bodies are.” “Bodies?” She nodded and watched her sister fall asleep. “You can stay with us for as long as you need to, Wendy. We’ll never let anything happen to you. I swear it.” “Thank you, Mr. Leslie.” Putting Bethy on the blanket on the floor, he went to find his mom. He knew where she’d be.

The kitchen was a place she’d go when she had something to work out. He only hoped she wasn’t trying to make bread again. It wouldn’t be fit to eat if she was. ~*~ Venetia watched Morgan as she stirred the chips into the cookie batter. They’d not be chips for long, more like shavings if she kept at it the way she was. Taking the bowl and the spoon from her, she told her to have a seat, and she’d take care of the cookies. Venetia was just putting the first batch of cookies in the oven when Leslie came into the room. “We’ll need you to go into town and find something for the kids to wear. Also, bottles. I have plenty of milk from the cows this morning but no bottles.”

Venetia said she and Leslie would go after the cookies were done. Then she winked at Leslie when he whispered, asking about his mom. “Thank you. And I’m doing just fine, Leslie. Don’t be rude. We’ll need some cloth diapers too. I’m not even sure they make them anymore.” “I think so, but I’d not use them either. They’re full of chemicals to make them not stain as much. I can take care of that and the bottles for you.” Morgan nodded and seemed to be lost in thought. Venetia looked at Leslie when he took a hot cookie from the sheet pan.

“Hale told me that he was my faerie. Noodle also introduced herself to me.” He said he was sorry about that. He’d meant to do it today. “No reason to be. It’s not like we’ve had a normal day so far. Anyway, Noodle and Hale are going to fashion a baby bed for Bethy. If you’ve no problem with them being with us, I’d like to make sure the kids have a place to sleep that they can call their own.”

“Wendy and I were just talking about that. I’d very much like it if they would be our children if you would like that. I also should have told you I have a place for us to live.” She asked him where it was. “Here. The seven of us, including Mom, have lived here our whole life, and with the magic we were gifted, we were able to take our rooms and make them into something much larger than it appears from the hallway. You and I have four bedrooms, living, dining, and a few other rooms in the one we have. Also, we can change it around any way you wish, but I think we can be comfortable living here.

If not, then we’ll think of something else.” “No. I think I’d like to be right here. This is the heart of this family, and I like that we can live here and be separate from the rest when we want to. All right. I’ll make sure things are set up how the kids will want them. If, as you said, they need or want something different, then we can work on that. Do you know if there is anyone else we can contact?” He told her what Wendy had said to him. “I can look into that, but I’d have to be with the body. I’m to understand that Hanna can do that sort of thing. Find lifelines to people with only their name.” Leslie laughed and said she could do amazing things. “Yes, well, I’ve picked up a couple more things too since coming here.

I can—” “The children. They’re going to need someplace to live. I can make sure they’re well fed, but as far as raising them, I’m not sure how good I’d be any more at being a motherly type. I’m a great deal older than I used to be. I wouldn’t know the first thing about new rules and such.” They all laughed about that. Venetia didn’t tell Morgan when she spoke up that they’d already discussed that very thing. Instead, Leslie told his mom what he was thinking, and she nodded at him. “They’ll be safe here. Also, they’ll get some good food in their bellies. I’m thinking they’ve not had much in the way of home cooked anything for a while, if ever.” “Mom, are you all right?”

Morgan stared at Leslie when he asked her. “You seem to be thinking very hard about something. Tell us so we can help you.” “She was willing to kill her own children.” Venetia had an idea that was what was bothering the other woman. Leslie hugged his mom as she sobbed out her hurt at what had been done to the children. “I can’t stand the fact that she isn’t going to die the same way she hoped her children would have. People, humans, aren’t even nice to their own offspring. Are they, Leslie?” “Mom, I was going to talk to Venetia later about this, but I’d like to adopt the children. All three of them.” Venetia said that was what she was hoping to do as well.

“Then it’s settled. You’ll have three more grandchildren to spoil rotten and fatten up as much as you wish. If we can convince the courts to allow us to have them.” “They’d better if they don’t want me to come down on their asses.” Morgan perked up after that. She even smiled when she took one of the cookies off the cooling rack. “Let me make a few phone calls on your behalf. I think they’ll be good for all of us around here too. What with Hanna and Piper having babies, it’ll be like we’ve finally got something to celebrate at the holidays. Thank you both for this.” Morgan left them, and Venetia finished up the cookies. She noticed that Leslie only ate them when they were hot out of the oven, but he didn’t eat all that many either.

Thinking of being a mom to three kids, she wondered what else was going to be in store for the two of them when Leslie spoke, interrupting her thoughts. “We should get married. I know this is fast, but I think we’ll stand a better chance of getting the children if we’re a married couple.” She told him that was fine by her. “Whether you want a large or small wedding, it can be easy enough to arrange. However, we have people that can file that we’re already married now so that when Mom makes her calls, the paperwork will be finalized.” “I’ll talk to my parents, but go ahead and have everything filed.

Also, so you’re aware, I’m in love with you.” He stood up so quickly that she backed away from him. “Did I say something wrong?” “Never, when you tell me you love me. I love you as well.” He moved toward her slowly. “I’d like to kiss you right now. I’d like to take you upstairs and make you mine, but I know there are things going on that are going to need our attention right now.” She kissed him anyway. Knowing that at any moment anyone could walk in on them, she pulled away when he tried to lift her up to the counter.

It took her fuzzy mind a few seconds to realize that the timer was going off for the next batch of cookies. Pushing him to the side, she scolded him for being in her way. All he did was laugh. “I’ll be back later. My room is the one at the top of the stairs on the left. It has a yellow door.” She turned and looked at him, asking if he wanted her to wait on him. “No reason for that. You make notes of whatever you think we’ll need, as well as the kids. Hale will be with you if you need something right away. Barring that, you can have him bring in the faeries and take care of most anything you wish.

Also, just to give you a heads up, they take everything you say literally. Like, if you tell them you want the room painted, you must tell them the walls. Otherwise, they’ll have the entire room the same color. Same with the kitchen appliances. I know we’re going to need a larger refrigerator, but tell them you want one that’ll fit a certain space. For some reason, they think the bigger things are, the better you’re going to like it. Trust me on this one. We’ll have a walk-in refrigerator if you’re not specific with them.”

She thought he was kidding her, and after he left, she put the cookies that were cooled enough in a tin she’d found. Her sister joined her as she was pulling things out of the pantry to make some other kinds of cookies for the kids to snack on. “Did you know they send their wheat out to be milled, and that’s why they have flour?” She told Zippy she’d not seen that as yet. “They do everything right here. When Bailey told me that, I thought he was joking. They don’t even own a car or truck but use horses to do the plowing and moving of the foodstuffs. I’ve not had an opportunity to talk to you much since we arrived. How are you, Veni?” Smiling at the shortened version of her name, she answered her. “I’m doing well now that I have my memories back.

Some I wish I’d never had, but they’re all there. I’m a good deal stronger as a witch than I was before. Do you suppose it has to do with being here?” Zippy told her that was something she was working out too. She was mixing the batch of coconut cookies when Zippy asked her if she hated her. “Why on earth would you think I hate you?”

“I should have gone back for you. I tried to find what happened to you, but you were so small when you were taken that your magic hadn’t been acquired by you yet. I could have found you easier if I had had some kind of tag to look for. I’m so sorry.” Veni held her sister as she cried, telling her over and over that it was all right. She’d had enough to deal with in taking care of their parents.

“Did the other family treat you well? That’s all I’ve been thinking about since I heard you’d been found.” “They were nice to me. I knew from an early age I wasn’t theirs. I didn’t know the entire story, but most of it. I thought my parents were dead. I don’t know that they knew about you at all. It was never something that came up.” She went back to making the batter for the cookies while her sister composed herself. “I was working for the FBI about Henderson and Applegate. I was getting very close to having all the information needed to bring them in when they caught me one night looking in files that I had no access to during working hours. Luckily I was able to send off what I had before I was tossed from the car.”

“I’d like to be a part of making them pay for what they did to you. To all of us.” Veni told her she’d have to stand in line. So would her new brothers. Zippy smiled then. “It’s strange, isn’t it? That both of us are mated to brothers. Our children will be double cousins or something. Don’t you think?” Wendy came into the room then with Bethy in her arms. Zippy took her from the older child and put her in the highchair she was sure wasn’t there before. As soon as Bethy was strapped in, Wendy asked if they could have a snack. Since she’d baked the kids the cookies for after dinner, she cut them both up an apple—smushed up for Bethy and sliced for Wendy—then after cutting grapes into smaller pieces for the baby again, Veni put some grapes on the plate, and gave both the little girls some juice.

“When we lived at home with Momma, she wouldn’t let us have any juice. She said it was for mixing whiskey in and not for brats.” Veni looked at her sister when she started to speak. Shaking her head just enough, Zippy asked Wendy how often she would be putting juice and whiskey together. “Every day. She’d give a bottle of it to Bethy, too, when she was fussy. That seemed to be all the time. But she’d pinch her too.” “Your mother would pinch the baby?” Morgan came in and sat down at the table with the girls and shared the grapes she was cutting in half for Bethy. “I’m assuming she did similar things to you and your brother?” “Yes. Mostly it was to lock us in the room.

We called it that because that’s all it was. No lights or rugs. There wasn’t even a window we could open. Just a pot in the corner for us to do our business in.” Wendy handed Bethy a sippy cup that Morgan had. Things were popping up all over the place for the children, Venetia thought with a laugh. “I saved all the bottles she gave us to drink from too. I didn’t ever drink enough to go to sleep, as Bethy and Sammy did. Someone had to watch them. So the night we were put in the car, I was wide awake, and I got out before the car flipped over. I couldn’t save them then. I got tangled up in some branches that hung me in the water for a long time. Until Noodle came to rescue me.”

After finding out where Wendy had hidden the half-empty bottles of water, Veni, a nickname that was growing on her, told Leslie where she was going. He told her he’d meet her there with the police and for her to be careful. I’m going to kill her is what I’m going to do. He asked her to wait on that. I’ll give it my best shot. But she drugged these children—they’re very lucky to be alive, I’m thinking, after the way they were treated. Damn it, Leslie, I’m pissed. So am I, honey. I’ll meet you at the house. Be careful. And bring Zippy with you. I think between the two of you, we’ll have no trouble finding all the little things around the house that were used against our kids. She liked the sound of that and told him so. I like it too. I love you, Venetia. So be careful. She decided to tell him her new nickname later. Right now, she needed to put her focus on the task at hand and look for enough evidence to put Rebecca Canavan behind bars forever.

Edwin Release Blitz & Giveaway

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….

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Prologue


Charles—Charlie, to most people who knew him—was so lost 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 its 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 Charlie’s 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. 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’s, 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, you did not harm any other animal you came across, and there were plenty. 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 the best I can. What I can’t use, I leave out for 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, wars—including the current Comanche War—have made 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 explanation, 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 names, 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 around here that might be wanting an extra hand 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 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 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 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 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 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 more about his daughter and that he, plain old Charlie, was her mate. The soul reason he’d not been harmed while wandering around in the woods. “Do you understand what it is I want you to do?”

Charlie said he thought so. “No. I’m sorry, I can’t allow you to go into this, only thinking you understand. Please, ask me anything you’d like. You must be clear on this. I need you to be clear on how it is I wish 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 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 I’d been following you around, I want you to know 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 than I am.” Charlie started to protest. “No. I’m correct in picking you as my replacement. And if that is some of your worry, 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 you can tell me your answer. I know I have picked the right man, Charlie. It’s something 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. Are 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 that 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 laid there while trying his best to catch his breath. That was when he heard the other gunshots, the wolves 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.

Madden Release Blitz & Giveaway

Gabby Thomas wasn’t sure which end was up. Was everyone in this town crooked? Everything at the police station was in disarray, and now she found herself the new police chief. She had to fire the lot of them and start from scratch. Working with the Feds wasn’t proving to be the easiest solution either. Thank goodness she had found her mate, Madden. He was her rock.
Madden McCray wasn’t expecting to find his mate when he sat down with the new police chief, but he was glad he did. Gabby was proving to be just what he needed.
Gabby and Madden share an epic love, but with Gabby’s visions of the future, will love alone be enough for what lies ahead? Find out in the final installment of McCray Bruin—Madden.

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Demi Morgan was good at keeping her identity hidden, so when an attorney found her at a restaurant she owned, she was more than a little angry. Very few people knew how to find her, and she took her privacy seriously. His news that her mother had passed, several months ago, did nothing for her. Her family had never wanted her, and in turn, she didn’t want them either. He knew her family, and he understood her feelings, but the will had to be read.

Reluctantly, Demi made her arrangements to travel back to her hometown in Ohio. Her intentions were to either decide to stay, or to sell the home her grandmother had left her. Living in the same town as her brother and sister didn’t appeal to her at all. When her brother, Nathan, cold-cocked her in the elevator, an unlikely savior came to her rescue, Madden McCray.

Demi wanted to hire Madden to be her bodyguard while she was in town. Madden said as much as he could use the money, he told her he already had a job, but his brother, Lucian could use the work.

Lucian wanted to meet Demi before he accepted the job, and when her scent hit him between the eyes, his bear rolled over him—she was his mate. But reality hit him like a freight train. She had money—a lot of money—and he and his family had always been dirt poor. He wanted his mate too—more than anything, but he’d have to get past his pride first….

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Meadow Springs had been locked away in a hospital for several years. At sixteen she was a victim and sole survivor of the mass murder of her family. The ordeal had left her semi-comatose for a long time. Since she was the only survivor and couldn’t talk, the police tried to pen the murders on her, but it didn’t stick.

Josiah McCray was there the day that Meadow was brought to their home to go into hiding. The beautiful blonde in the wheelchair was a shadow of the woman she should be. All Josiah saw was his mate, and he loved her no matter what.

The killer was still out there, and Meadow had his identity locked inside her mind and the killer knew it. Everyone previously in charge of her care were now dead. There was no way that was a coincidence.

Meadow was a loose end, the one that got away. There was no way the killer could let her live….

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Melody Austin was afraid of nearly everything, but like it or not, she was a survivor. When she was seventeen, she had survived a harrowing attack that left her mentally and physically scarred. Now, ten years later, her brother, Daniel, repeatedly asked her to talk about the disturbing events, to tell him what happened so that he could understand, but she remained silent.  She knew he meant well, but telling him a bear was behind the attack at the school would get her locked up in a mental institution. No one would believe that story, and she couldn’t blame them.

Daniel had taken a job working for the McCrays. He made Mel promise that she’d join him in just a few days, but instead, Daniel received a call that his house was on fire, and Mel had been burned in the process. Daniel took Gannon with him to check on his sister.

Daniel had told Gannon that Mel was a bit skittish before they arrived on the scene. But the moment Gannon caught her scent; he knew she was his mate. He meant to reassure her by telling her that she was his mate and that everything would be all right, but the instant she heard that he was a bear shifter, she went wild, running back into the fire to get away from him.

When Gannon discovered that a bear was the cause of all her fears, he didn’t know how he could get past this. He couldn’t change what he was…. Was this doomed from the start?

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Things hadn’t been going very well for Lucy and her two sisters. When their parents died, their uncle had moved in and took over. The girls, apparently, were too much trouble to worry about, so he’d dumped them onto the streets to fend for themselves.

It was just luck that Ian McCray and his family had found Lucy that day. Both Lucy and her sister, Jilly, were in bad need of medical attention. Ian was just thrilled to have found his mate alive. In their situation, it could have been much worse.

Lucy was thankful for the help, but she was just going from one man to another lording over her and dictating what she could and couldn’t do. It was marry Ian or lose her sisters for good. Ian was a nice man, but she was tired of everyone telling her what to do.

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Joey wasn’t dealing with the best of news. The phone call informing her that her niece was dead was bad enough, but her great-niece, Becky, was also in danger. Then finding out her twin sister, Margie, had Joey’s office bugged just about sent her over the edge. And now her mother’s life was being threatened for information on Becky. Joey was going to have to kill someone before this was all over with.

Pierce was having a time dealing with stress lately. Trying to please everyone and not giving himself any slack was about to do him in, and no one was helping him at all by telling him he needed to find a mate. Just thinking about that prospect was stressful too.

Pierce was gifted. Not only was he a bear, but he could read the minds of others. He was a great profiler. Meadow sent him to help Joey find the spies in her organization. As soon as Pierce met Joey, he knew he had found his mate at long last, but telling her would have to wait. With everything else she had going on, that information might make her head explode.

Lucian https://amzn.to/2V5qhib

Josiah  https://amzn.to/2SyOLzG
Gannon  https://amzn.to/2WsiyxT
IAN https://amzn.to/33Iw7gk
PIERCE https://amzn.to/37ADBmC

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Prologue


The phone ringing pulled her from a deep sleep. Or was it just the beginning of her sleep? Whatever it was, Gabby was as pissed as she’d ever been at being woken up. Pulling the cell to her ear, she took a deep breath to blast the person on the other end when he spoke to her. “Gabby, there’s been an incident.” She sat up in bed, untangling her hair from her face as she asked the officer what had happened. “Hailey is hurt. Badly. She’s been beaten to shit, and the guy she was with is dead.” “I’m on my way. Did you call her dad?” Paul told her she’d asked for her. “All right. Paul, send a car for her dad in about five minutes. That’ll give me— Where is she anyway?” “Shanks farm. Right along the road. It’s bad, Gabby. The kid looks like she’s gone a few rounds with a fighter. But she’s hanging on.” She got outside and into her truck just as she saw an ambulance race by her home. “I’m going to tell her you’re coming.

All right. Hurry. I don’t rightly think she’s going to die right now, but I just don’t know how she’s still hanging onto consciousness as bad as she looks.” “I’m leaving my house now. I’ll be there before you know it. Send someone for Harry. Don’t tell him the way you have me. And for the love of all that is holy, don’t let him drive.” She was pulling up in front of the cruisers that were all over the road. Gabby only had to show her badge to one person, and she was let through. Whoever the guy was, she didn’t know him. More than likely, she thought, one of the guys from the county over. Going to the car, she had to look for her niece. Hailey was sitting on the ground leaning against the car, a bloodied, broken mess of a seventeen-year-old kid.

“Hey, babe. Isn’t it a little cold for you to be sitting in the cornfield like this?” Hailey asked her if it was her. “Yes, honey, it’s me. The medics are here to take you in. You look like hell.” Her eyes were swollen shut, and it looked like her nose had been broken too. With her eye hanging oddly, Gabby figured someone had broken her eye socket as well. “I told him no. Over and over, I told him no. He just kept trying to get me to touch him. His dick, I mean.” She asked her what had happened. “I don’t remember right now. But I told him no. I fought him off like you told me, and he ran off.” Paul just shook his head when she looked at him. “Hailey, the men here want to take you into the hospital. I’ve sent for your daddy and told them not to allow him to drive.” “I kept telling him no, Aunt Gabby. But he kept hitting me. Harder than when he knocked me against the car window the first time.” Gabby could tell her jaw was broken, or at least in terrible shape. Hailey was holding her jaw tight as she spoke to her. “He just kept hitting me and hitting me.” The medics moved in when she stepped back. Them pulling her from the car had her nearly pulling her gun out and killing them for making Hailey scream, but Paul was there to hold her back.

Even as they laid her on the gurney, Gabby could see there was more damage done to her than just what she could see on her face. As soon as they gave her something to knock her out, the medical team assessed her injuries. They were vast and painful looking, to say the least. As soon as Harry was out of the car, he came running to where they were. It was all she could do to hold him back while she told him she was still alive. “What happened to her?” Gabby told her older brother what she knew and what she’d been told by Hailey. “I thought she was home. I asked Rose where she was when I got home, and she said she was in her room. Then when the cop showed up, she wouldn’t even speak to me. This is it, Gabby. I can’t have her treating Hailey like this. Not anymore.” “Keep your voice down.” He looked around when she did. “Do you want everyone running back to her with what you’re saying?

Christ, Harry.” He started crying when he got to the gurney to look at his daughter. The two of them spoke quietly while the medics told them what had happened to her. While they were working on getting her in a position to move her, Gabby went to the other side of the car to look at the dead body. “She didn’t kill him. I mean, she had something to do with it, but she didn’t kill him.” Paul showed her what he’d been able to see that she couldn’t in her position standing by the body. “He got the shit beat out of him too, it looks like. But the only thing she said to me when I got here was that he’d run off when she’d kicked him in his dick. It looks like he got out of the car to do whatever and fell on one of the frozen corn stalks. See here? It caught him right in the throat and severed the arteries. Bled out while she called us to come and get you.” “Have the parents been notified?”

He said they’d not yet, waiting on making sure that Hailey got what she needed before anyone left here. “Good idea. Once she’s on her way, have someone go with you. Wear your body cams too.” “I will. I know this kid, Gabby. I have to tell you, I’m surprised he’s not been killed before now. Or killed someone else. He isn’t the type of person that takes no as an answer. As you can see.” She nodded and asked him if there had been reports from him before. “Ten at least. He’s a twenty-two-year-old senior at the high school. His last year if I don’t miss my bet.” “Are you serious? He’s not graduated from high school, and they allowed him to keep going there? Christ.” Paul told her who he was. “Why do I know that name? Chip Brunswick? It’s not the mayor’s son, is it?” “His nephew. I think he’s been staying with his uncle since the Christmas break. But he does live here. His parents have gone on a cruise or something. We were asked to go by their house a few times a day to make sure Chip here wasn’t having any parties.” She stood up when she’d seen all she could in the darkened area. “This is going to hit the fan, you know that, don’t you? I mean, you being a cop, your brother acting judge on a major case coming up. People are going to have a field day with all this other shit too.”

“I’m not going to work on this with you. But I would like to be kept in the loop, quietly if you can.” Paul promised her he would. “I don’t know if what I’m thinking is going to pan out or anything, but do me a favor and pull this kid’s phone records and Rose’s. I have no idea why, but I think she might well have planned this sort of thing. I could be wrong.” “You’re never wrong when it comes to shit like this.” He made himself a note. Paul was old school. He literally wrote it down on a small pad of paper rather than on his phone like most people did. She did the same thing, as he’d been the one that had trained her. “I’ll let you know as soon as I do. Also, I’d like it if you had a burner so I can talk to you without anyone tracing it.” She said she’d get herself one. The body was taken away soon after the coroner arrived. Doc Massey should have retired years ago, but he was the best there was at his job. Being in his late seventies, the man didn’t miss a beat. He used the newfangled equipment, what he called it, like the new kids on the block. He took one look at the car, then at the body, and nodded.

“Couldn’t have happened to a better person if you ask me.” He also didn’t have a filter between his brain and his mouth most of the time. “I got me a couple of reports, Paul, that I’ll make sure you get. Two other girls have been done in by this kind of shit. Who’s the young lady? I’m assuming she made it.” “My niece.” Massey looked at her, shocked. “Yes, she’s been beaten up badly. The medics said she had five broken ribs on her right, as well as two on the left, broken right arm and wrist—a bite out of her ear. You might want to dig around for that while you’re in there, Massey. If you’d not mind.” “No. I’ll find it or know the reason why. How’s Harry taking this? Not good, I’m betting.” She said he was at the hospital now. “That Hailey is a good kid. She’s one of the bravest kids I know, next to you, Gabby. Here’s hoping she comes out on top of this.” The body was turned over, and she could see that his jaw was broken too. Not only that, but it looked like he might have had his hair pulled out in a few places, as well as what appeared to be nail cut marks on his cheeks.

Just as Paul said, the stalk of corn, cut off at an angle when the crops had been brought in, killed him by going through his neck. The medics with Massey left it where it was when the body was turned over and put on the other gurney. “They’ll need to see what happened. I like a little drama when I have to show people how their loved one died. However, in this case, I’m thinking he wasn’t loved all that much.” It was Paul that asked Massey how he knew that. “About six months ago, I heard they were sending him to some kind of military place. To get his head on right. He’d gotten to be too much for him. Hell, I think he was too much for the two of them when they brought him home from that place. He’s not theirs, and I’m betting every day they wish they’d not adopted him. As I said, I’ll get you a couple of files I have that have his fingerprints and DNA all over the body. But old Fussy Ass wouldn’t allow me to use them.” Massey laughed. He sounded like a braying jackass when he was tickled like he was. “I had him sign off on it. For my eyes only, I told him. Hell, if that shit comes back to try and bite me in the ass, I’m going to show it to the queen herself if it’ll get me out of trouble.”

The cleanup wasn’t anything she could help with, as she wasn’t there in a professional capacity. Getting back in her truck, she let the thing warm up this time, thanking her for getting her to Hailey in time. As she sat there, she thought about what Massey had told her. Two bodies. Two young girls that had been killed by this kid. Pulling into traffic, she headed to the hospital. Gabby also thought about how Rose was involved in this if she was. It would be just like her to have someone beat the shit out of Hailey so her daughters would be prettier. It was a sad case of the Little Cinder Girl all over. Except this evil stepmom was going to get her ass in trouble if she was even remotely in on anything that had happened here or in the last two deaths by Chippy. The hospital wasn’t busy this early in the morning. When she got up to the third floor where the operating rooms were, she found her brother still in his robe and slippers. She asked him if she needed to go get him something to wear. “Birdy is going to find me some scrubs to put on. I want you to stay with me.” Gabby asked if there had been any news. “Not yet. She was whisked away to surgery as soon as we got here.

They were ready for her. She coded on the way in, Gabby. I don’t know what I’d do if she were to leave me like this. Christ, I love that kid more than I do myself sometimes.” “I do too. She kept telling me she fought him off like I’d taught her to do.” He hugged her, telling her he was so glad she’d talked him into letting her do that. “I know young boys and their parents much better than you do, Harry. They’re all pieces of shits. You’re the only man in the world I will ever love.” “You’re hard on men, Gabby. I have pointed this out to you before.” She was glad to see her brother smile at that. The two of them were still waiting on news when their parents showed up. She didn’t know who had called them but was grateful that someone had. In all the things going on tonight, she’d forgotten they’d moved to this town a few weeks ago to be closer to them. “The doctor is going to do his best with her.

I know she’s young and strong, so I’m hoping for the best here.” Harry didn’t mention that she’d coded, and Gabby was glad. There were some things you didn’t tell your parents, and she thought this was one of them. They weren’t young, their mom and dad, and had seen a great deal, but no one wanted to know that their granddaughter had died once already tonight. When it rounded up to six hours in surgery, Gabby found herself a quiet place to do something she told herself she’d never do and had told the other person she’d never call on her either. Reaching out into the cold dark night, she called for Gaea, the Mother to All Creatures. “I felt her blood stain the ground, my child.” Gabby cried a little, telling her what Gaea probably knew better than she did. “You know I will do whatever you wish. I owe you so much more than even this, helping a life for you.”

“I don’t want to tap you out, overwork your noddle here, Gaea, but I told you before, I was just in the right place at the right time, that’s all.” She nodded as she did each time the two of them spoke. Gaea was the reason she was such a good cop. The older woman would help her with things when she felt the earth. “She cannot die. Hailey is the best part of her dad and my parents. I love her too, but I’m alone, and they will be should she pass away. Especially from something like this.” “The man, he is dead. It took me a moment to make sure the stalk was in the precise place when he stumbled onto it.” Gabby asked her if she was being serious. “I am. Had I not intervened when I did, Gabriela, he was coming around the car to pull her from it and rape, then kill her. It was in his mind, you see, that she should have suffered a great deal. Be disfigured too. You would not have found the body either without my help. The deed wasn’t finished until there was nothing left of her but a stain on the ground.” “Did Rose help him?” She nodded. “Was she fucking him? I’m assuming she was because that sounds exactly like something she’d do.”

“Fucking. It is a terrible word for making love. But in this case, you have gotten it right. They were fucking. Like little bunnies without a care in the world.” Gaea smiled, but it was far from friendly. “I will help where I can. There are things in motion that will help you along with her as well. Do not be fooled by Rose’s acts, Gabriela. You know her to be evil, but she is so much more than that.” “I don’t know what could be more evil than evil, but I’ll take your word for it. I think Harry has had enough as well.” She told her good. “You’ll help her then? You’ll make sure Gabby doesn’t die?” “Yes.” She started to fade out but came back for a moment as a solid person. “She will no more die than you will, Gabriela Thomas.” Then she was gone. ~*~ Pierce wandered around the halls just as he was told to do. There was going to be a reckoning here soon. Not really that bad, but it had to be taken care of now, or someone was going to be killed. The jail that was just outside of their little town, but still the one they used, was so run down, overpopulated, and in bad shape that he was surprised someone hadn’t mentioned it before now.

“I’ve been taking pictures of the shit I’m finding. I might as well have been using a video recorder for as much is wrong here. What are you doing?” He told Madden he was measuring the walls. “I’m assuming it has something to do with the overall building?” “There are codes that say how large a cell should be, and with that, how many people it can hold. The cells, according to the American Correctional Association, or the ACA, should be seventy square feet per prisoner. With overcrowding, they have been putting in a second bunk for an upper person.” Madden asked him how large these rooms were. “Forty-eight. With three prisoners in the room when they’re in a pinch. Which seems to be happening a great deal.”

“Christ.” Pierce agreed with him. “So we have these overcrowded cells, one shower stall for everyone to share, as well as the worst kind of conditions for the bathrooms. Demi is going to have a cow when she hears how bad this place really is.” “There’s more. From what I’ve been able to find, there isn’t a yard for them to walk in that’s secure. So they’ve been having them walk around the commons area in a circle to give them exercise. Since the kitchens are in such poor shape, they’re bringing in fast food that isn’t fit to eat when they order it, much less when it travels all the way here in the back of a van.” Pierce went over the list he’d been making since he arrived. “This place should have been shut down years, if not decades ago. I mean, just a few minutes ago, I had to go outside to pee. I was terrified of what would befall me if I were to have gone into that room.” They both laughed, but he’d been really worried. He wasn’t a little guy. “My bear curled up around me and seemed to be more afraid of going in there than he might have been on the darkest nights.” “I hear you.” They walked around for a little while longer together, then they parted ways again when they got to the next part of the building. Pierce was finding it hard to navigate through the halls. It seemed to him that someone had blocked off places that should have been halls and closed up rooms too. He was standing in front of what he thought should have been an office when he heard from Joey. I’m going to go and see Margie now.

I wanted to let you know so that if you feel me getting angry at her, you’ll know the reason for it. He told her she’d do fine. I do hope so. All I’ve been thinking about is how this is going to be coming to a head soon, and she’ll be out of our life. Did you hear about the kids found not far from where you are in the jail? The girl and the boy out on a date? Yeah, the cops here are telling us that this little bitty thing of a girl beat this guy to shit, then lived to tell about it. I guess it was touch and go for her for a while, but she’s going to pull through. She told him she was one of their nieces’ age. Yes. I can’t imagine what would be going through my head if anything were to happen to one of my nieces. I guess the cop that works here part-time is her aunt. I’ve never met her, have you? No. Her brother is acting judge until Barker gets back from vacation. He’d not known that part. Okay, I’m here. I have her things that I told her that I’d bring, and I’m going to make a big deal about how this is going to work out for her.

Also, I’ve got a list of things I’m to ask her about. But not in an I’m-needing-more-information sort of way. Whatever the hell that means. He was still laughing about her when he stared at the door again. Or where the door should have been. Looking around, he shifted himself to his big bear and slammed his body against the wall. Pierce felt it budge, and some of the drywall crumble, but it was still blocked. The voice behind him told him he should have been paying more attention than he had been. “I tried that before. Not as a bear, but that is a good thing to use. I only got as far as using a reciprocating saw. As you can see there, I got it in before the whole place shut down because I blew the single fuse that covers here. Not a good thing to happen in a place full of criminals, I’d think.” Turning slowly, he regarded the woman standing there. “Gabby Thomas. I’m assuming you’re with the pretty lady in the office screaming at the mayor and the captain.”

He nodded. While Pierce knew he could shift and dress at the same time, he wanted to get this doorway open. She asked if she could help him. When he nodded again, she came at him with her hand out. Pierce noticed that not only was it not trembling, but she didn’t seem to care overly much that he outweighed her by about three hundred pounds. Biting gently into her hand so they could talk, she asked him if he’d hit the wall again. After the third try, not only did they have the wall knocked down, but it showed him that there were several such doorways along this hall. They were on the fourth door when he heard from Demi. I don’t know what you’re doing, but keep it up. You’re scaring the hell out of the men I’m in here with. They think I’ve opened up the gates of hell and am bringing the devil himself down on them. I love it. Pierce told her what they were doing and who he was working with. As his bear. Good job. And so you know, Gabby needs to take this place over. The moron that works here thinks a good day at the office is not showing up at all.

I’m about to go to prison for killing the lot of them. There are several rooms here, cluttered with boxes of things I’ve not had a chance to look into. Gabby is. But she is sort of just taking glances and mumbling a great deal to herself about penmanship or something. They look to me like old evidence. But then, I’m not the type that would know anything about that. Also, these rooms look a great deal like classrooms, all the way to the chalkboards on a couple of walls. She asked him if she could find him easy enough. I don’t know why not. I mean, if I’m thinking this is laid out right, I’m right behind the captain’s office. Or thereabouts. If there is so much overcrowding, why aren’t they using these rooms for something other than collecting dust? I don’t know, but I plan to find out. She said she’d be there in about half an hour and for him to find a place to shift. You might want to tell Gabby to take off too. Someone has a real hard-on for finding her. She’s in trouble about something that occurred last night. Apparently, she was at the scene where her niece was hurt, and the boss is giving her shit about it.

By the way, you found the rooms like they are now. I don’t want us getting into any shit about breaking down walls. Pierce told Demi about the accident and how her niece was hurt. After shifting and dressing, he told Gabby what was going on. She took off before he got a chance to thank her for her help. He had no idea where the thought came from, but he’d bet anything she knew more about these rooms than anyone did. And he’d bet she was able to get in and out of them without anyone noticing too. Standing at one of the windows when Demi arrived, he was immediately asked what the fuck he was doing there. If not for Demi, he was sure he would have been arrested. He was also glad that not only had Gabby left, but he’d had the forethought to wipe up her shoe prints. ~*~ Gabby held onto her brother’s hand as the surgeon told them what he’d done to ensure there wasn’t any permanent damage done to Hailey. Mostly it was to her face, but her entire body had been beaten badly, he told them.

“She’s in recovery now, which I have to say surprised me somewhat. But I also know Hailey was in good shape and that her being young played a big role in her coming out of the coma so well.” Harry nodded. Gabby knew why she was out of the coma but hadn’t told Harry. She wasn’t sure if she ever would. “I know you’ve heard this list before, but I want you to know the extent of her injuries. The only reason I can think she’s lived through this is the reasons I said—being young and in good health. Harry, she’s going to need a lot of physical therapy as time goes by. Not just to walk, but to use her right hand.” “You said it had been broken.” Doctor Montrose said that it had been crushed. It appeared to him that it had been crushed by the glove box over and over before she’d been able to free herself from it. “She’s been taught by the best on how to take care of herself. If not for Gabby here, she’d be dead, I’m thinking.”

“By all accounts, she should be.” Both of them knew that. Even before Gaea had gotten to her that night, Hailey had coded again. It was only magic that had kept her from staying dead. “You should thank your sister daily for what she did. You’re right. This would be a different scenario altogether without that. As I was saying. She had a crack in her skull that concerns me a great deal, but her memory and skills at recalling things are still intact. I would say her head was banged against the closed window on her side at least ten to fifteen times before it was stopped. Her jaw is broken as well but has been wired closed to heal. I think the fact that she was able to speak that night shows again how resilient the young are. The left ankle is broken but set in a cast. Eight ribs are broken, another three are cracked. Her right lung is healing, as well as the damage that was done to her liver. I’m thinking that with her broken hip, she was jerked against the lap belt with enough force to have sliced into her leg and displace the bone enough that it cracked under the pressure. She’ll walk, but it might be a long time before she can do so without a limp.”

He went on to tell them of the cuts and the number of stitches that had to be used to put her back together. Her eyes were still swollen shut, but he said that was a good thing. It had protected her eyes from whatever damage might well have been done to them. She was going to live. That was all she was going to let herself think about now. And the last words Gaea had said to her as she left that night. They would never die. When her brother poked her, she looked around. They were alone again, in the room they’d been using as a place to rest and to gather themselves together. He asked her where she’d gone. “I don’t know that I could tell you what I might have been thinking about.” He told her he’d been feeling the same way for the last couple of days. “Did you get the locks changed on the house?

And an attorney for you?” “I did before coming in here yesterday on both things. Rose had taken her daughters to the zoo. She couldn’t be bothered to come here to see my daughter, but she could go to the fucking zoo? Doesn’t she know it’s like twenty-five degrees outside?” She cocked her brow at him. “All right, I’m better now. Anyway, I changed the locks, hired that pack like you said, and have an off-duty hanging around the house until further notice. Do you really think she hired Chip to kill my daughter, Gabby?

That is just so…I don’t have words for it.” “I’m not the investigating officer, but she and Chip have been having an affair for the last year and a half. They called each other a total of fifty times right up until he picked Hailey up. Then nothing from him afterwards. She made four to his cell phone that we’ve been able to trace back to her phone.” Harry asked her if she knew why Hailey was with the man. “You know her friend Jolie? Well, she had called Hailey to tell her she was on her way to get her. Asked her if she’d wait outside her house for her, as they were running late for the meeting with the other girls on the project they’d been assigned. There wasn’t a date between Chippy and Hailey, but Hailey going to the library before it closed to get a start on the project that was due in a month. Sounds like her, doesn’t it?

Getting started on it the same day.” “Yes, she would have treated it like they were behind right up until they were finished with it. No last-minute things for my girl.” Harry asked her why she’d gotten in the car with him if she knew. “I mean, I know for a fact she didn’t like him. She thought him a pest when he came around the house to do chores. I’m guessing now he wasn’t getting paid with cash.” “Don’t go there, Harry. You know, as well as I do, that’ll only make you insane. Well, in your case, insaner. But no, she didn’t like him.” Gabby knew he wasn’t going to like this next part at all. “Rose helped him get her into the car. The neighbor across the street had called the police and told them they thought someone was being kidnapped. When they arrived at your home about twenty minutes later, Rose assured them it was a little joke, that Hailey was on a date with a nice young man. He picked her up at about six-thirty, an hour before the library closed up.” “Why did it take until three in the morning before anyone knew anything?” She knew the answer to that as well.

Gabby had been going to the office off and on for the last several days. Mostly to just hear something different than medical terms, the police ones weren’t all that much different—but the smell was an improvement over the hospital—the information she was giving her brother from the reports copied for her every day. “I mean, that’s a good eight hours. What the hell did he do in all that time?” “She killed him sometime between ten and midnight. It’s difficult to get a good reading, as the ground he was on was frozen. But that’s about what Massey has estimated.” Harry said it was still a few hours. “I’m going to tell you something that you cannot repeat, Harry. If you do, then it’s all over. Got it?” He nodded. “Is it Rose? Did she have more to do with this than just helping him get her into the car? She was drugged, wasn’t she?” She slapped her palm to his forehead and told him to stop finding shit. “I can’t help it.

I just don’t see that Hailey would have willingly gotten into the car with him.” “I already told you she was helped into the car, didn’t I? Now listen. Hailey was being drugged. Over a long period of time too. Not only is Rose complicit in her being hurt, but it looks like she’d been feeding her arsenic for the last year. Little bits at a time, but that had nothing to do with the four hours.” He let the tears fall as she sat there with him. The room was the only place she trusted to talk to him in. She went over it daily with the little extra that Gaea had given her some years back.

“You know I have friends in weird places, right?” He nodded, then looked around. “Gaea told me she’d tried her best to intervene on Hailey’s part by getting Chippy lost on the way to the cornfield he took her to. Once they were there, Rose was waiting on him. I have no way of proving this, so I’m just letting you know so you watch your back. All right?” “Does she know what happened while they were there?” Gabby nodded. “Do I want to know? Am I going to lose my shit once I find out?” “You will. Suffice it to say that the two of them together are two of the sickest fucks I’ve ever heard of.” He sat there for several seconds, then jumped up. Barely making it to the trash can, he threw up three times before he simply slid to the floor, looking up at her. “You have a little puke on your lip there, Harry.” “Fuck you.” She nodded and waited for him to speak again. “They had sex right there where they wanted my daughter to die, didn’t they?” She nodded again. “More?” “Yes. Are you sure you want to hear it?” He said he didn’t but thought that he should. “They put her on the hood of the car while they fucked each other over her.

Not only that but there was semen on Hailey that didn’t come from Chippy.” “Christ.” He was sick twice more when he told her no more. But she knew that in a couple of minutes, he’d be asking her for the details. “Who was it?” “His uncle.” Nodding, he stayed where he was. She knew this was hard on him. It had made her sick as well. All these people conspiring against a teenager for no other reason than she was pretty. “There is a new group of people coming into the station house. They’re all bears. I’ve met one of them. Pierce McCray. I think you might have met some of them today in the courtroom. I’m thinking as soon as they get in the house, things are going to start coming to light. Like the back rooms.” “Do you still think they’re using those rooms for sex?” She said she didn’t know, but that was high on her list. “Why would they do that? In a police station, of all places.” “Why would anyone look there? I mean, think about it, Harry. What better place to make movies than to do it right there in the station house? The room Pierce and I were able to get into was window dressing. Nothing in there.

Dust out the ass, and all the windows were opened for anyone to look into. I’ll get to the other rooms now that I have help. Having a bear help means there aren’t any fuses to blow that alert them that I’m snooping around again.” He asked her if she was being careful. “Yes. More than I ever have been in my life. But I have to tell you that you need to be more careful than me. They’ll get to you or Hailey to get to me. Don’t let that happen. I’m begging you.” “I’ll be on the lookout for them.” She nodded. “You think I should start carrying a gun again? I know I told you it went against everything I believed in. But this isn’t anything that I signed up for.” “Yes. And like I’ve told you before, Harry, shoot to kill, not maim. Hurt people are dangerous people, and they can come back. Kill them if it means you live.” He told her he loved her. “I love you too. Please, you have to believe me when I tell you, this is going to be dangerous for everyone until we get this taken care of.”

“I believe you.” He finally stood up with her help. “You’re stronger, aren’t you? I haven’t wanted to ask you this, but is Hailey—?” “Yes. I asked for help with her.” He nodded and hugged her. Gabby hadn’t realized how much she needed him until then. “I’ve taken some leave time, but that doesn’t mean I won’t be in the loop. Stay with me. You can stay in my apartment rather than being cornered at the house. All right?” “Yes. I like that. It’s closer to the hospital too.” There was so much she could tell her brother. So much he needed to know. But for now, they were being watched over. Then tomorrow, she was going to meet with Gaea and figure out what she could do now that she’d not been able to do before. ~*~ Madden didn’t care for the police chief. Nor did he care for most of the people in the station house. They were lazy and pissed off that cameras that should have been put in place months or even years ago were being installed. He was Pierce’s backup man, but he was also keeping an eye on the shit going on around them. I’ve been thinking about a couple of things I’d like to run by you. He smiled when his mom spoke to him. This is purely something I’ve been thinking of, but I’m not sure I can figure it out on my own. You’ve always been my most supportive child. I see. Who else did you ask before I became the most supportive? I’m thinking Lucian.

She told him to behave. What is it, Mom? I’m here for you. The jail that is being put in. Is it going to be larger than the one there? I’m looking over these blueprints, and I can’t make heads nor tails out of it. It seems to me the place is about half again as big as I think they’re using. He told her what Pierce had figured out. That makes sense. I found some entries from the books I got from Meadow and the others. That jail wasn’t built to be a jail at all but a home for the homeless. I don’t know where things changed around yet, but after a few months of building the home, someone got the idea to use it as a jail. To me, that seems like something you’d have to figure out from the beginning. You know, for security purposes. I don’t know.

But did you happen to figure out when this place was built? She told him what she’d found. The late forties? That seems dangerous. I mean, we’re talking decades of no upgrades or any kind of security for the place. Well, not only was the place built back then but there is a building someplace that holds more evidence than what you found in that storage locker the other day. Mom asked him to wait, and she’d get him the address. It says here that it’s on Maple Avenue. The building number is blurred. It’s four numbers, and the first one is a nine. I’d say it’s not much in the way of a large building. The places along the area, I’m thinking, are just run-down houses that need a good kick in the bottom to get cleaned up. Does it tell you what the building was built for? I mean, there couldn’t have been enough evidence when it was first built to warrant the need for an entirely new building. She told Madden what the entry said. So they were going to use this place as a hideaway for women that were hurt in some way. All right. Very forward thinking for the times, but was it ever used for that?

Not that I can see right now. She said she loved this kind of sleuthing. I’m going to see what else I can find. There is something afoot here, and I need to solve it. Oh, before I forget to tell you, I’ve filed my bid to get to be mayor, and your dad is gathering up people to help me campaign. I think I can make a good dent in some of the things that are going on without even leaving the house. Madden told his brother what he’d been talking to Mom about. And about the building she had found. Pierce told him they’d take a drive by there when they were finished up. “It could be that the building or whatever has long since been torn down or even used for housing or something.” For some reason, Madden thought it was being used for just what it said, evidence. “I’m trying to be positive for a change. I just heard from Joey. Margie is going to prison for life without parole. And all the money and properties that had been signed over to Joey are now going to be used for the city, with the exception of what is set aside for Becky. The red tape, I’m to understand, for a corporation to build something like this is a nightmare.

I guess Meadow and Mel are working through it.” “The adoption paperwork has gone through for Becky too. She is excited to be living with her grandma close to her aunt.” That made his brother smile. “You’re all sappy again. Do you suppose that ever wears off?” “Christ, I hope not. I love my wife.” As his brother came down off the ladder he’d been on, Pierce told him he only had two more to go. One of them was in the chief’s office. “I’m thinking I’m going to run into trouble with that one. So be ready for anything.” They were ready, he supposed. Madden was carrying a gun now, and he didn’t hide the fact that he was. Even Pierce was carrying one. They had come in by order of the state of Ohio to do this project. If anyone were to try and detain or stop them from doing their duty, they were told to shoot to kill. Madden thought the man was kidding when he told him that. “I don’t kid about shooting someone, Mr. McCray.” He told the governor he was sorry.

“Don’t be. I’m just glad your sister-in-law was able to spare the two of you for this. I’m also looking into a few other things while I’m working on things here.” Without any trouble from the men, they set up the cameras in the last two places. No one here would have access to the recordings, but it would be manned all the time. They were driving down Maple Avenue around five when they realized the building could have been one of a dozen homes and buildings in the area where Mom told them it was. “None of them scream the year time frame. But that doesn’t mean much. Put some siding on a home, and it will hide all kinds of things from a person.” Madden agreed. “I say we get back to the house and see what else Mom has— Look there, Madden.” The man going in and out of the building was none other than the mayor. He was with two other people, both of them dressed in black. They were carrying what looked to him like boxes and also some camera equipment. Madden recorded what they were seeing on his phone while Pierce called Demi.

She said someone would be there in five minutes, but for them not to engage. They didn’t want to, so that was an easy thing to follow. Within minutes not only had the FBI shown up, but SWAT was pulling in as they watched. While he hadn’t any idea what was going down, he thought his mom was going to be mayor before the election. Things were surely moving in her favor.

Harley Prince Of Tigers Release Day and Giveaway

Micky had so much going on around her, it was making her head spin. Her sister was shot, her father was killed in the same incident, and the doctor had diagnosed her with terminal cancer. If it wasn’t for the Prince family, her sister, Rowan, would be a death’s door. Their shifter blood had healing properties, and that was the only thing that pulled her through. Now, Rowan was determined the Prince family would save Micky too.
Marcus told Micky she wasn’t his mate, but he bet she was Harley’s. Micky was never one to hide in a corner waiting for answers. She walked right up to Harley and buried her nose in his throat. At his moan—or her own, she knew as surely as she was standing there who he was to her.
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Harper Wilson and all her siblings were relieved when they received the notice of their parents’ demise. No one deserved it more, and the only reason Harper agreed to go back to that little town in Ohio was to make sure they were truly dead.
Bryant Prince and his family were immortals and hadn’t aged since they’d reached the age of twenty-eight. He and his family had always lived next door to the Wilsons, but he never knew the Wilson children. The Wilsons had always kept to themselves, so no one had any idea what was going on in the little house of horrors. If they had, the Wilson parents would have been dead a long time ago.
There was nothing left of the Wilson house but one wall. The fire had taken the rest. The garage, however, was still intact, and this was where Harper wound up. Drawn in by dark, morbid memories from her childhood. Bryant watched her, knowing that he’d found his mate.
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is samson-453x680.jpg

Allison Sheppard had come back to town to bury her siblings. Allie’s sister and two brothers had robbed the local bank. Samson Prince had killed two of them to protect the innocent people in the bank, her baby brother was sitting in a jail cell awaiting trial. Allie wanted to wash her hands of all of them.
It didn’t take Allie but a moment to realize that the entire town looked on her as a pariah, like she was responsible for what her siblings did. Not that she could blame them, but the silent accusations did hurt. The sooner she was finished with this mess, the better. She would leave this town and good riddance.
Samson only wanted to make the woman understand that they weren’t monsters, and he had no choice in the bank, but from the moment he was within two feet of her, her scent overwhelmed him. Allie was his mate, and this changed everything….
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Piper James was at the funeral home doing the hardest thing she’d ever had to do—bury her mother. The last ten years had been difficult, with her dad’s illness then him ultimately dying, and then her mother being diagnosed with cancer. Her siblings, Mary and Louis, had been no help at all, financially or lending a hand with their care. Now that their mother was gone, those two were going to be a handful, Piper just knew it.
Fisher Prince, a rare black tiger shifter, had a gift. He was able to find people and things with little effort. When a judge called him and asked him to find Piper and keep her safe from her siblings, Fisher agreed to help him out, but he wasn’t expecting to find his mate in the process.
The bond between the two was nearly immediate, and when he gave her a ring gifted to him by Aurora, queen of the earth, neither were prepared for what happened next.
Mary and Louis were never going to stop pursuing Piper unless someone intervened. Would the Prince family be in time to stop the inevitable?
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Emmie Rankin didn’t trust men. She had been brutally raped at fourteen and now had her daughter, Olivia, as a result. Olivia was now a teen herself. Although an attorney by trade, Emmie had had to give up her practice to stay at home and take care of her father and her child.
Kylan Prince was a black tiger shifter. He had been waiting a long time for his mate to come into his life. Now that she was finally here, he was determined to do everything he could to convince her that he was what she and her daughter needed in their lives.






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Prologue




Micky sat in the little room that had been opened up for them. She was sick with worry about her sister and didn’t want her to die. She supposed they all wanted that, but she and Rowan were close. They told each other everything. “Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t know anyone was in here.” She told Kylan to come and join her. That she could use some company. “All right. If you don’t want me here, just say so. I’m sure I can find someplace else.” His smile was reassuring. “Rowan and Roone are only eleven months older than me. The others are about two years apart from the next one. Jeff and Winnie are twins as well.” He told her that must have been wonderful growing up. “It was. We were never alone. None of us have ever been without someone we can depend on. Rowan is my go-to gal when I need a shoulder or just to let off steam. She was good at that. Helping you let off some steam to her.”

“You were told what we did for her, weren’t you?” She nodded and looked down at her water bottle. “I made sure her knees were repaired. I may have to go back in again and make sure her bones are healing the way they should. Bryant, he made sure the rib that pierced her lung was moved and put in place before healing her lungs. I guess I never thought of how much damage could happen to a person even with a vest on.” “As close as we were told he was to her, it’s small wonder he didn’t break more than that. Three ribs aren’t that many when you get shot twice in the chest at close range.” Kylan nodded and said he’d have more respect for cops now because of it. “My father was a cop. His father too, and so far back, I have a feeling we might well have been the very first ones. Not really, but it’s a family thing. Dad didn’t care if any of us carried on the tradition so long as what we did made us want to do it every day. And if it didn’t, then find something that did. That’s one of the reasons I’m selling my daycare to someone right now. I’ve found that now I’ve taken it about as far as I can go with it, I want to move on.”

“What do you think you’ll do now? If you don’t mind me asking.” She said she was still working on that but didn’t mind him asking at all. “We all tried a little of everything while we grew up. I couldn’t draw a stick person well when I started out drawing, but I’ve had a lot of time to work on it. Now I think I’m pretty good. I had to really work at it. However, it’s something I still enjoy. Advertising is a fun way to make a living.” “Bryant mentioned that you were all very old. And the first black tigers. I’ve never seen one in real life. Just pictures. They’re so different than Bengals, aren’t they?” He told her they were even larger than the ones in zoos too. “I can’t imagine how you were able to go from being a little kitten to what you are today. It must have— My mind is blown by what sorts of things you’ve seen change since you were born. What was the biggest change that wowed you?”


“Everything, really. The first time we saw electricity was terrifying for us. Then there were cars that moved down the road. Antibiotics were the biggest, best thing I can think of. So many people died from a simple cut that wouldn’t even need any kind of assistance from a doctor nowadays. Trains too. I used to love riding on them. Not the kind now that will pamper to your every need, but just hitching a ride on one of the carts to get from one point to the next. I didn’t even have to have a place to go. I just enjoyed the ride.” Micky laughed and was glad that he’d come to sit with her. “There aren’t as many changes as there used to be. Still, they happen, but not on the level they did then. What do you enjoy doing?” “I’m the black sheep of the family, you might say. I am forever looking for the next project I can immerse myself in. I’ve started and moved on to more projects than all of the others together. It’s what I do.” He asked her if she enjoyed that. “I used to. Not so much anymore.

I have money, a great deal of it. We all do. It’s not like I start these projects, then just walk away. I get them up and running, then hire someone else to take over. I have my toes in a lot of water all the time.” “Good for you.” They both laughed, and when Bryant joined them, he asked his brother if he was ready to go back to Rowan. “Would you like to come with us? I know you’ve all declined to see her like she is, but she looks a good deal better than when we came in. We were warned not to heal her completely, for the press, but unless something else happens to her at this point, she’ll live.” “I think I would.” When she stood up, she followed them out of the room. “Rowan is my best sister. I need her like I need air to breathe.” “I know just how you feel.” The room was dark when they entered. It wasn’t until they told her why that she understood. “Having the lights off in here doesn’t bring us any unwanted attention while we’re with her.

Some people might have seen us going back and forth, but we’ve made it so they don’t know our faces when we leave here.” “I would imagine this sort of thing could get you a lot of kooks coming around wanting you to heal every Tom, Dick, and Harriet they know.” Micky moved up to the bed to look at her sister. “She does look better. When Doctor Fleming showed us pictures of her, I decided I didn’t want to see her in person. That guy, he did a number on her.” “Yes, she was lucky her vest was nearby.” Touching her fingers to her sister’s cheek, she half listened to the other two as they gave Rowan more of their magic. They were telling her sister what they were doing, how it was going to affect her, as well as some of their personal information. Kylan had two little girls and a son on the way. She was— “Guys?” Neither of them said anything when she called for them. “Guys, she’s staring at me. My sister is looking at me right now.” “Talk to her.” Nodding, nothing at all came to mind. If asked, Micky wasn’t even sure she could have told Rowan what the weather was like, much less the date. “Go ahead, Micky. Tell her how much you miss her.”


“I do.” She leaned closer as Rowan looked at her. “You’re going to get better, and we’re going to go on the cruise we promised we’d go on. Remember?” She blinked twice at her, and Micky laughed and cried. Leaning down to kiss her on her forehead, Micky whispered how much she loved her. Rowan’s hand moved, and reaching for it, Micky held onto it for several seconds while they looked at each other. The tube in her mouth, helping her breathe from the lung injury, prevented Rowan from speaking, but the two of them were able to convey volumes in just those short few minutes. Then Rowan closed her eyes and drifted into what she hoped was a better sleep than before. “You were lucky today.” She nodded, unable to speak to Kylan when he spoke to her. “In my family, they’d be so jealous that you’d been able to talk to her. She’ll get better more and more now that she’s on her way. I’m betting soon they’ll take the tubing out, and she’ll be able to breathe on her own.” Micky knew they were each giving Rowan blood. Not very much, just a few drops she’d been told. But it was working wonders on her. Working to bring her sister to them again. Not wanting to leave her, but knowing she had to when they did, she stood outside the room and sobbed.

It was going to be all right, she told herself. Rowan would be her old self in no time, and they really would go on that trip. Making her way back to the little room she’d been in, she was both dismayed and happy that Roone was there. Telling him what had happened, the two of them held each other as they cried. “The first thing I’m going to make her do is to get better locks on her doors. Not to mention stronger doors.” Micky told Roone she’d more than likely not want to live in the house any longer. “I never thought of that. You’re more than likely right. I don’t know that I’d want to live there either. Although, perhaps she’ll want to live with one of us for a little while. Just until she’s up and around for a while.” “She won’t want to do that either, Roone. If she’s up and around even a little, you know her well enough to understand she’d want to live on her own. That way, no one can tell her when she should rest.”

Roone laughed with her. “I’m betting in no time at all she’ll be taking on cases from wherever she’s living and solving them too. There is no stopping a Bronson when they can use a phone.” They sat there for a little while longer, just the two of them. Kylan came in once and said they would see to Rowan once more before they left. The two of them had refused any kind of payment from them, not even for their hotel. She thought if the rest of the family were anything like these two, she might like to meet them. When Jeff and Winnie showed up, they were told about Rowan, too, while Micky drifted down to the cafeteria area of the hospital. She just needed a moment of quiet time before she went home. The six of them were taking turns staying with Rowan so they could get some rest and food. Her turn wouldn’t be again until tomorrow morning. But she needed this time just to sit and think. There was too much going on right now for her to rest well. Not only did she want to be there for Rowan, but the others too. What she’d not told Kylan was that she’d put her daycare center on the market and was in the process of selling it now.


Just walking away from a business was something she rarely did. Usually, she would hire someone to take it over while she reaped the profits. She didn’t want to do that this time. Going home, Micky pulled her laptop to her while she was resting on the couch. She looked up the Prince family and was impressed with the things they were into. The picture of them all together at what looked like a wedding showed six big men and a mom and dad. She wondered, like everyone did, she was sure, how they had gone for so long not finding their wives, being as old as they were. She supposed that waiting on one’s other half—their mates, as they were called—took time. Micky didn’t think she’d ever marry again. The first one, lasting only five weeks, had ended abruptly when he was killed by a drive-by shooting. She’d not even dated all that much since then and wondered why. “Oh yeah. Men are pigs.”

She smiled at her reasoning and thought of all the shit she was going to have to do now that she didn’t have anywhere to go. It wasn’t like she’d not be able to find herself a job, but she didn’t want to right now. “Maybe I’ll take a few days and just drive around the state.” Her cat, a small house cat, came and sat near her on the couch. He wouldn’t get up with her no matter how many times she told him it was all right. After figuring out what was going on, she laughed until she was crying. The cat knew she’d been around a bigger cat, and he was jealous. “You might as well join me here, Becket. He’s not going to come around once Rowan is well.” Still, he only stared at her, looking about as betrayed as she’d ever seen him look. Laughing harder, she went to the kitchen to get him a treat. “You’re the reason I can’t have any friends over—you know that, don’t you? You’re rude, and you can’t stand anyone around me. Well, I guess you’ll have to get used to the smell, little man. I believe your favorite person in the world is going to smell a great deal like a bigger kitty. It would serve you right if I were to pick her over you.”

After he sulked for a few hours, he finally got up on the couch with her. But he didn’t sit on her lap, nor did he look at her when she said his name. The stupid animal was acting just like all the men she knew. Snooty and out of joint because she’d been out having fun. Well, not fun, but not here with him either. Setting her alarm after not being able to get her stupid cat to like her again, she went to sleep. Tomorrow was going to be a good day. She might even be able to have a conversation with Rowan again. Micky was smiling when she felt herself roll over into sleep. ~*~ Micky and Rowan loaded up the car with the few things they planned to take with them. Mostly it was snacks and bottled water and juice, but it was a road trip they both wanted. Maybe even needed a little. “I can’t believe how quickly my house sold.” She told Rowan she thought she’d gotten a good deal on it too. “Yes, I did. Now I have to figure out what I’m going to do when I get back. Taking a leave from the station house wasn’t my idea, but now that I’m going with you, I think I might enjoy it.


Are you sure you don’t mind taking me with you?” “It’ll be just what we both need.” Not only had her sister sold her house, but she’d gotten someone to take over the running of the nursing home. “We neither one have ties to hold us back or that we have to rush back to. Roone and the others are going to come to see us when they can. This will be better than the cruise we were going to take.” “I still want to take that cruise with you.” Micky wanted that too, but now wasn’t so sure she’d be able to enjoy it. “Are you going to tell me what is going on, or are you going to make me guess? Tell me.” “I have cancer. It’s in my lungs, lymph nodes, as well as my breasts. It’s not that I’ve not had checks every year, but this is an aggressive form that is going to take my life. I don’t want to die, Rowan.” She said she didn’t want her to either and hugged her. “I wanted this to be so much fun for us. The two of us getting out and seeing things we might not have otherwise.” “You’re not going to die.” She nodded at her.

“No. You’re not. We’re going to make our first trip out to see the family that saved me. If they can put me back together the way they did, you won’t be a problem.” “I can’t ask them to do that. They saved you. That was more than enough.” Rowan told her she’d tell them, not ask, and that saving her without her bestie wasn’t good enough. “This is why I didn’t want to tell you. I knew you’d want that too.” “I can’t go on without you, Micky. You’re as much my twin as Roone is. I need you.” She said she needed her too. “Do they know? Any of them?” “Mark does. The doctor I usually used was out of town when I fell. It wasn’t that big of a deal, but Mark saw me in the emergency room and found out. Told me about it too.” She told her it would be all right. “No. This is all we’re going to do. Go on this trip, have some fun before I’m too weak to go on, then I’ll die peacefully in my sleep with you holding my hand.” Getting into the car, she hoped that would be the end of it. However, she should have known better. Rowan was not one to put off. The first hundred miles or so was her talking about how they were going to approach the family. To beg, if they needed to, for what they wanted them to do for them. By the time Rowan let it go, they were outside the city limits of the town the Prince family was from. At some point, Rowan had driven them right there.

Micky’s nap was the perfect time for her to get off the highway and to the city. She shouldn’t have told her. “Because they shared their blood with me, I’m betting I have some sort of beacon I can contact them with. What is it they do in those dirty books you read?” She told her they weren’t dirty, but romance. “Potato, potahto. Whatever. What do they do?” “They sort of mind reach out for them. I doubt that would work anyway. I mean, it’s only in books. Right?” Rowan turned and smiled at her. “You did it, didn’t you? Have you no shame?”
“Not where you’re concerned, no, I don’t. We’ve been invited for dinner. I’m talking to Bryant right now. He thinks it’s funny that we’re here. They were all just talking about me.” Misty said they should find a hotel. “Nope, we’re staying with them. They have plenty of room, and we’re going there.” The drive through town was slow going, but it was a nice little town. The more they got out of what could only be considered the downtown area, the houses got bigger and pricier. Rowan pulled into the drive of one of the biggest houses she’d ever seen. She asked her if this was right.

“You tell me. Is that him on the front porch?” Not only was it Bryant, but he was waving at them. The woman with him could only be Harper, the woman she’d spoken to briefly when she’d called to talk to her husband. “I’m assuming that’s a yes. Come on, dork. We’re going to have a lovely dinner with them, then we’re going to see about saving you for me. This might not work the way I want it to, but I’ve got my gun. We’ll just have to make them help you.” Before she could tell her she was insane, which she was sure Rowan was, she was in the car all alone. Getting out, she had a moment when she was dizzy and didn’t let go of the door just yet. When a tiger came to the car beside her, she wondered if this would be an easier way to die than the cancer she had. “Hello.” She smiled at the man who walked from the porch to her. “I’m Collier. Emmie is my daughter. Kylan is her husband. He wants me to talk to you. Can I do that for you? Also, you should know that this is Marcus.” “Is he planning on having me for dinner?

I’m ill. He should know that too.” Collier told her she had been ill. “I’m sorry. No one has touched me here. I can’t be cured.” “He said you were touched by your sister. Hugged, too, if he doesn’t miss his bet. Marcus said you were cured of the cancer the moment she held you in her arms. However, he is very happy you’ve come to visit them.” She said she didn’t understand. “Marcus said they explained to you about the magic they used on your sister. Also, telling you they didn’t know how it would work with her. She can apparently heal people with just a touch. Even the cut on your leg you did this morning while shaving is gone. He said you missed a spot on your ankle.” “Does he have any manners at all?” Collier laughed and said all of them did, usually. She looked at where she’d cut herself badly this morning and found that not only was it gone, but there wasn’t a scar. “I don’t understand this. We came here…Rowan has a gun.

She planned on using it on your family if they didn’t help me.” “Not that it matters, but since you’re healed, we don’t have to worry about that.” She asked him why it didn’t matter. “We’re all immortal, including you and your sister. Are you coming in for dinner? I’m starved.” When he walked away, she looked at the tiger. He was staring at her like her cat did, who she had left in the back of the car. Going to get it out of the cage, she warned the big tiger that she wasn’t too keen on bigger cats. As soon as he leapt from her hands, the cat was gone.
“Micky? Are you coming in or staying out there all day?” She looked at her sister, then at the tiger. “Come on. We’re all waiting on you?” “Something is going on here, isn’t it?” He nodded at her. “Do you suppose we’re going to be unhappy with whatever it is?” The cat shrugged like a human would. Then he took off for the side of the house. “I’ve entered The Twilight Zone. I just know it. I’m going to start hearing that scary music, then end up in some cornfield where I’ll never be heard from again.” Going into the house, she felt calmed. The aroma coming from the dining room had her following her nose. Whatever they were serving, she wanted some of it. Sitting down next to her sister, she started piling up her plate. The tiger, in the form of a man, came in and sat down too. This was just going to drive her over the edge. She knew it.

Dwayne Bishop’s Leap Release Blitz&Giveaway

Brittany Handle was doing the best she could. She had just gotten out of a violently abusive relationship, and she was doing her best to get her business rolling. Having heard her sister died, she and her son, Jamie, went to Ohio to settle her sister’s affairs.
Dwayne Bishop was settling into his new job at Addington. The owner was grooming him to take over when she retired. He was walking back to his office when Jamie literally barreled into him. The boy was being chased by three bullies. He had given as good as he got until one of them had hit him in the head with a baseball bat. Dwayne stepped in and protected the boy. Once back at his office, the boy was hurt worse than Dwayne thought and collapsed. Panicking, Dwayne reaches out to his family for help.
Brit was doing her best to keep her shit together. Everyone kept saying it was bad, but she hadn’t seen Jamie yet, and until she did, she was doing her best to keep from snapping at everyone. But when Dwayne handed her what Jamie had had in his pocket, the jolt nearly knocked her off her chair. They were mates! She had just got out of one abusive relationship. There was no way she was bowing down to any man ever again….
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Raven Addington was happy with her life the way it was. She and her daughter, Molly, were doing just fine on their own, despite what her mother had to say about it. Merriam, Raven’s mother, never had anything nice to say about anything, so why should now be any different.

Sawyer Bishop had turned in his notice at the police force. No matter how bad he needed the money, he wasn’t about to let a hot-headed partner make him a mark for an early grave. His parents needed his help on the farm, so he was happy to leave the force.

Sawyer was supposed to be on desk duty, but they were shorthanded, so he took the call that came in from the 911 dispatch. It would be his last, and then he would be a poor but free man.

When Sawyer arrived on the scene, it was bad. The poor woman had been beaten until she was unrecognizable and barely breathing. Although he didn’t know her personally, he knew Raven Addington was extremely wealthy, and that bothered him more than he cared to admit. Being a Bengal tiger, he knew from her scent that she was his mate. Her station in life was so far above his, he didn’t think it was going to work. But when she coded in the hospital, he had to make a quick decision and hope it wouldn’t come back to bite him in the ass later.

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Sasha Harvard had returned to the small town in Ohio because Hailey Riddle, a ghost, had led her there. Sasha had been speaking to the dead for as long as she could remember. In working with the police, Sasha had been in the field, helping to look for Melinda’s spirit when Melinda Havard had found her. Melinda told her that they were sisters, and the man that had killed her thought that she was Sasha. Melinda had done the best she could to deliver the child she was carrying before she succumbed to her wounds. The child was marked like Sasha, and the dead would find her when she was older. Melinda wanted Sasha to raise her child, and she warned Sasha that the man who had killed her would come after both her and the child because of what they could do. Sasha pulled out the business card of Sawyer Bishop, the officer in charge on the field, and told him that she’d like to meet him at his house and to send someone to pick her up.

Chandler Bishop knocked on Sasha’s door to pick her up. He heard a scuffle inside and broke down the door. A man was standing over Sasha with a baseball bat, and she had been beaten. When Chandler yelled at the man, he just disappeared. Sasha was shocked that he’d seen the man. Chandler thought the man was a vampire, Sasha told him the man was dead.

Chandler had found his mate and could see the dead now too apparently. And the little girl, Pip, her niece, would be theirs as well. A readymade family and he couldn’t be happier. But would he and his tiger be able to keep them safe from both the living and the dead?

the living and the dead?

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Wesley Bishop was helping out a friend by letting Emmie stay with him. He knew she wasn’t his mate, but she was good company. Emmie was hiding from her abusive brothers. When she asked Wesley to take her to the bank, she was meeting her best friend Penny and Penny’s grandfather, Joe, to go over their accounts, Wesley readily agreed.

Wesley thought Penny was about the prettiest woman he’d ever seen—feisty too, and when her scent hit him like a freight train, he was the happiest tiger shifter on the planet.

Penny, not so much. Like Emmie, Penny’s family had a way of getting their point across with a heavy fist. Trusting a man wasn’t easy for her.

Wesley was no quitter; he’d convince his new mate to trust him if it was the last thing he did. And keeping her safe was proving to be more difficult by the day.

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It would take Hodge time to get used to Gunner’s family. She’d used a little magic to help Raven deliver her twins without any pain. The Bishops were crowding her, wanting answers Hodge wasn’t ready to give. She was a loner, and all these people around her would take some getting used to. Gunner felt the same way and told his family to just go home. His mom wasn’t too happy about that.

To the world, Gunner was retired from his service with the military, but he was too good at his job to just stop. Someone had placed a price on Gunner’s head. He just had to figure out who. They’d come close once, but Hodge had sensed the threat and took care of it. But more attempts were inevitable. Would Hodge be able to intervene the next time?

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Prologue


Every time Dwayne looked at his brother, he laughed. There was no point in holding back anymore, either. Everyone had seen and heard him react to Gunner and Hodge popping out of the book, so there was no hiding the fact that Sawyer had been the perfect stodge to have pulled this on. Gunner had told Sawyer to put the book on the floor. Not questioning his brother, he did just what he’d asked him to do. Then Sawyer, falling hook line and sinker for whatever reason Gunner had told him to say abracadabra over it, was just too funny. Gunner and Hodge had just appeared, something akin to being sprinkled from the ceiling. Sawyer had leapt back from them, fallen over the coffee table, breaking it, and screaming like a little girl seeing a spider. Dwayne would forever hear a child scream like that and think of this day. “Keep laughing it up, and I’ll give you a good reason to be sobbing over your supper later.” He couldn’t help it. Dwayne laughed all the harder. “I’m going to knock the shit out of you.” “Behave, the two of you. It was fun.

You have to admit, there haven’t been that many fun things around here of late. Not with us trying to hunt down a killer, people getting their asses shot to fuck, and things like recording devices showing up in the strangest places.” Dwayne noticed that his mom didn’t say anything to the girls for their potty mouth, as she called it. He thought that Andi had the worst of it. Hearing it from men all the time was something he could understand. Sometimes he’d forget she was a woman. Andi didn’t look manly or anything like that. Nor did she have a haircut that would make it difficult to tell what gender she was from behind. Her hair was as beautiful as any sunset he’d ever witnessed, and her figure in those tight pants that women wore nowadays was perfect on her body.

Not that he was looking too hard. “I need to ask you a couple of questions.” Dwayne told Chandler he was all ears. “I don’t want to alarm you, but you have a family following you around. A woman, two children, and a man. None of them seem to be upset or anything like that. They’re new to you. I mean, all of us have a ghost or two hanging around, with the exception of Andi. But this family is new to you.” “Why not Andi?” He said that neither of them knew. “So, you think she’s not ever hurt anyone or caused their deaths? I haven’t either. Not that I know of. And this couple, what do they look like?

What I mean is, my age? Older? Tell me something so I can remember them.” “They’re all four dead, of course. I’m thinking some sort of toxin killed them.” Dwayne watched as his brother had a conversation with, he assumed, one of them. “Carbon poisoning. You do know them in a way. You tried to save them when you came upon their car. Do you remember that?” “Yes.” He looked in the direction his brother was still looking. “If you can hear me, I’m still trying to reach your sister, missus. The number I found in your home was old and no longer assigned.

The police have your cell phone. As soon as they turn it over to me for the few minutes they said I could have, I’ll call her.” “What happened?” Dwayne told Chandler what had happened. “I saw that in the paper. Where they were homeless and living in their car, right? I didn’t see your name mentioned in the article.” “I asked them not to. I don’t know the family at all. I wish I could have done more for them, but they were all dead by then, with the exception of the wife, and she didn’t last that long after I got to them. The children were bundled up in the back seat. The husband had…he killed himself, I think when he figured out what he’d done.

The missus asked me to call her sister to let her know. Brooks is trying to get the police to allow me to call her for them.” Chandler asked if he could help. “I don’t know. I never thought of asking you guys, but you do have an in with the station house. I just need it to get the phone number for a woman by the name of Brit. I might have heard that wrong, but I’m hoping I’m close enough to it that I can call her.” “You have it. It’s Brittany Handle. She lives in New York.” Chandler said that would help. “I’m going to make a call now to the station and see what they can tell me. If they’d just get you the number, that will have next of kin notified.” “Yes, that would be great. If it’s all right with the family.”

Chandler told him that their last name was Lance. He asked him if he wanted their names as well. “It might go a long way in convincing the other woman that I’m not a crackpot. Please. Get it for me.” Dwayne followed Chandler to Sawyer’s office. His brother had been doing work with the police station for weeks now, and his office looked like a crime scene to him. He knew that pictures of the scene were helpful, but the ones on his brother’s walls were bloody and vivid. “Have you seen Gunner’s office? Andi took all his medals that he no longer wore and had them framed with the information on the back as to why he received each one of them. I had no idea that Gunner was such a hero.” Dwayne said he’d not seen them yet.

“You need to have a look at it. It’s beautifully done and very tastefully out there that he’s been saving lives for a decade.” While his brother talked to someone on the phone, Dwayne had a look around this office. It was filled out nicely. He even liked the fact that there was a nice couch across from the desk rather than just chairs. Dwayne envied his brothers’ tastes. Everything in this room said a man worked in here. It wasn’t for show. He supposed if he ever got around to fixing his office up, he’d have a nice one too. Right now, all he had in the room was a few boxes of books, as well as an office chair. Dwayne was working with Holly. Not for her, she told him, but with.

She had not really hinted but outright told him that she was grooming him to take over her businesses when she’d had enough. Dwayne thought she was kidding. Apparently, she didn’t kid around about money and how she made it. “I knew the second I saw you that you’d make the perfect replacement for me. I bet if I were to ask you anyone around here’s name today, you’d be able to tell me what it was.” He said they knew who he was, so it was only fair that he learned their names.

“That, right there, is what I’m talking about. You’re not just a good replacement, Dwayne, but a person that I can be proud of. My son, as you know, doesn’t want it. He said he’s busy learning to live since that horrid wife of his was sent off to prison. Not that I blame him. Being shackled to her should have killed him. But he is being a good son and grandfather to those children.” “Molly loves him. She is having so much fun with her sister and brother that I’m surprised she ever gets out much. Raven said she’s been the best big sister she could have ever hoped for.” Holly told him that was the way it should be. “I agree. My parents love them too. Molly goes to their home several times a week just to hang out with them. I hope if I ever get a mate, then children, they’re like her. Molly is a wonderful kid.”

“I’d like to take full credit for that, but I can’t. Don’t tell her I said this, but I think Raven did a wonderful job of raising her on her own. I helped when she’d let me. Also, Raven doesn’t have all those stupid rules that keep me from having fun with her daughter.” Dwayne didn’t mention her other grandmother. That was a sore spot for all of them. “Did I tell you that my son is going on a cruise with me next month? We’ve never done that before. I think he’ll enjoy it too. While I’m gone, you’ll be running the business.” “Dwayne?” He looked at his brother, being pulled from the panic attack he had every time he thought of running the business. “Here’s the number. The phone doesn’t have service, and I don’t think it has for a long time. The captain there had to plug it in for it to come on. The battery was shot.”

Taking the number from his brother, he laid it by the phone and took in a deep breath. He’d never done anything remotely like this before—called someone to let them know their family member had passed away. Chandler left him there. He also told him that he was alone in the room. Picking up the phone, he glanced at his watch as he only just realized he was happy it wasn’t too late. “Brit Handle’s office. How may I help you?” He was shocked for a moment but gathered himself up quickly. Asking to speak to Brit on a personal matter got him nowhere with the person on the other end. “Do you have any idea how many men call in here thinking I’m a sap and I’m going to hand the phone over to my boss? Plenty. I like my job very much, and the person I work for. So come up with another story, or I’m hanging up.”

“It’s about her sister and her family.” There was a long pause, and Dwayne was terrified she’d hung up on him. She told him, however, that she was Brit. “I’m sorry, Ms. Handle. But they died the day before yesterday.” “How? I’m assuming that fucktard did it.” Dwayne told her how he’d found them and that her sister, while alive, didn’t last long. He did ask her who fucktard was. “Her father-in-law. Howie Lane. Even his name is lazy sounding. It’s his name too. Howie. I’m babbling right now, so bear with me, all right?” “Yes, of course. Your sister’s dying wish was for me to contact you.” He heard a door shut, cutting off the noises that were in the background of the call. “The police usually do this, call the family, but I’d been asked to contact you, and I wanted to do that for her. If it helps you to know, it looked as if the children had simply fallen asleep and died that way.

Not that having children die is a good thing. Now I’m babbling.” “It’s hard to take. I mean, we weren’t really all that close. You said they were in a car. Do you know if they were living anywhere?” He said they couldn’t find an address for them anywhere. Also, the plates on the car had been expired for a few years. “It sounds like Howie kicked them out. Howie wanted to make his son pay for putting him in prison. I’m guessing he’s finally gotten his wish.” “Howard had been shot in the head. I just assumed it was self-inflicted when I saw that he’d been shot. Do you suppose Howie had anything to do with that?” She said she didn’t know but wouldn’t put it past him. “The coroner has released their bodies to me. I’ve made arrangements to have them taken to the local funeral home. Other than prepping the bodies, there hasn’t been anything done. Nothing in the paper either.”

“Good. I’m going to be there in a few days. I can’t leave right now because of things going on here. Isn’t that the way it always is? Anyway, I have a lot going on here that requires my attention. When I get my flight information, can you arrange for us to be picked up? I’ll be bringing my son with me. Is that all right?” “Yes, of course. I can either put you up in a hotel or a bed and breakfast. Either one will be ready when you arrive. May I ask how old your son is? That way, I can figure out if he needs a crib or not.” Her laughter made him smile. “I take it he won’t need a crib.” “Not hardly. He’s twelve going on thirty. He’s the type of kid that keeps his mom straight. His name is Jamison, but he goes by Jamie. Calling him Jamison will make him roll his eyes at you. But the bed and breakfast sounds better than a hotel. Also, can you do me a favor?

If you can’t, then that’s fine too. I’m sure you have more important things to do than help a woman out with a kid. But if you could find a local cemetery that will let them be buried there, that would be wonderful. I don’t know where they were living, but they don’t have anyone around here either.” Dwayne was taking notes on what she wanted when she laughed. He paused in writing down calling the cemetery. “I don’t even know your name. I’m so sorry.” “That’s fine. It’s Dwayne Bishop. My family is well known around here in the event you wanted to check us out before coming here.” She asked him if he was in the habit of calling strangers to tell them that their family had died.

“No. This is my first call. I just don’t want you to think I’m trying to scam you.” “Mr. Bishop, I’ve been scammed by the best of them and have come out on top. I just want to get my sister and her family someplace where it’s nice and then come back here. Dealing with Howie is going to take up a great deal of my time, but he is going to pay. I have a feeling he’s the sole reason they were living out of their car.” He told her he’d find out for her. “Do you have a crystal ball, by chance?” “No. But I do have some very well connected family members. I’ll see what I can find out for you before you arrive.” She thanked him three times before he was able to get off the phone with her. “I’ll see you in a few days, Ms. Handle.”

After hanging up, he asked Sasha if she’d help him out. When she came into the room with him, he told her what Ms. Handle had told him, as well as what he might need in the way of answers from the family. “All right. I can do that for you. But before we go too far, Mr. Lane didn’t kill himself. He wants that known so that he can be buried next to his family. I wasn’t sure what he was meaning by that, but I got it figured out. Also, they think they were murdered. The mister’s father had been trying to do that since they married.”

Dwayne asked her if she knew why. “Not yet. They’re still trying to remember details about things. The little ones haven’t said a word since they showed up with you. I’m thinking it’s the norm for them to be quiet all the time. Also, the missus, she said to thank you for calling her sister.” “She’ll be here in a few days with her son.” Sasha asked him if he knew if there was a husband. “I didn’t ask. Why?” “I don’t know. I was thinking she might be yours or Quincey’s mate. I mean, that’s the way it seems to go, don’t you think?” He told her he didn’t have time for a mate. “You make sure you tell her that when she arrives. All right. Ask your questions, and we’ll go from there.”

Caleb Berkley’s Bastards Release Blitz&Giveaway

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.
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Caleb let the tears fall down his cheeks. His mother, his hero, had taken her last breath, and he was having a hard time dealing with the pain of her leaving him. He knew she was no longer suffering. The drugs and things they’d been giving her since she took to her bed three weeks ago had taken care of that. But she had been there for him all his life, and he wasn’t sure what he was going to do without her around. “Sir, Hospice is here. They wish to come in and see her.” He nodded and kissed his mother’s cold hand before putting it under the blanket, which was over her body. “She’ll be sorely missed, sir.

Your mother was a great woman. One of a kind, if you were to ask me.” “I know you loved her too, Ben. She loved everyone so much.” Nodding, the two men embraced for a few moments. Then he straightened up and moved out of the way for the people from Hospice to do what they needed. Caleb found himself in the kitchen then. The cup of tea was just what he’d needed. Mary, Ben’s wife, asked if his mother had passed. Nodding, a fresh stream of tears fell down his face, and she hugged him as well. He clung to the woman who had become his second mother in all these years and cried softly into her warm bosom. “She’ll be wondering what all the fuss is about if she were to look down on us now.” He laughed a little. “That’s my boy. You’ll be simply fine, Caleb.

It’s why she left when she did. A real lady doesn’t stay too long when there are other things to be taken care of. You’ll be good because she raised you well.” “Mom and I couldn’t have done it without you and Ben around all the time. I think when she had to work, she didn’t mind leaving me here because the two of you were around.” Mary nodded and said she’d do it all over again if asked. “I know you would. She knew too that leaving me now would be all right because of the two of you. You are staying on, right? You won’t leave me here all alone?” “What a thing to ask of me. Of course, we’ll be here for you. When you find yourself a pretty little wife to come here, we’ll be there for your children as well. However, I will tell you that if you decide to sell and move to another place, Caleb, we will go out west.

I don’t think I could get used to another home this late in my life. You know that.” He did but didn’t know about the pretty little wife. “You’ll see. As soon as you’re out and about again, women will be relieved to know you’re back to work and such. Your momma, she told you not to mourn her too long, didn’t she?” “She said I was to dump her out of the bed and have the room redecorated as soon as her body was cold.” He laughed and cried a little at that. “Mom was full of it all the way to the end. I’ll miss her so much.” Crying again, he felt hands patting him on the back. Not just Mary’s, but her husband’s comforting hand as well. Letting himself grieve for a little bit, he sat up in the chair when Mary gave him a plate of little food, as she called it.

It was apple slices and peanut butter. Cheese and crackers with a bit of mustard on the side. Also, since he’d gotten older, she would put either a glass of wine with his little meal or a bottle of beer, neither of which he had the stomach for right now. The nurse that had been with his mom during the day came into the room with him. He started to stand up. “No, don’t do that. Just sit there and eat. They’ve taken her away just as was arranged, Mr. Anderson. Also, because your mother was good about getting things taken care of, all the arrangements have been made too.” He said he was aware of that. “Good, good. Also, there are just a couple of things for us to come back for. She wanted to donate the bed and equipment to us so we could get some use out of it. Such a fine woman, your mother.” “She was. Thank you. Yes, she told me last week that she was going to make sure you had what was left here.

I’m to understand that everything that was left will be reused.” She told him that was what his mom had wanted. “Good. I know she’s made a donation to Hospice, too, in her will. I don’t know what it would be, but I’ll make sure you have plenty for the help you give.” “Thank you, sir. We do appreciate yours and your mother’s kindness.” Nodding, he waited for her to leave or say something more. It was like this every time he spoke to the woman—she just didn’t seem to know how to end a conversation. Even his mom had gotten a good giggle out of it. Finally, she left them, and he looked at Mary. “You’re to say something at the funeral.” He said he’d gone over it with his mom yesterday. “She would have wanted you to say what was in your heart. And your mind. I’m going to have a nice spread here when the funeral is over.

Bring back whoever would like to come. We’ll make it work.” “I will make the announcement after my speech.” He got up, knowing he had a lot of things to do today. Avoiding the parlor where his mom had been staying, he made his way to his office. Caleb had left a great deal unfinished when he’d stopped everything to be with her. Caleb had loved his mother more than he thought anyone had in all the children he’d met when he was younger. She’d taken the time to show him things he doubted any other parent had done.

He knew how to trade stocks and make himself a good meal that didn’t come out of a microwave. Caleb also had a good education and was at the top of his game in architectural design, both for the building he might be working on as well as the landscaping surrounding it. He had literally followed in her footsteps when it came to making a living. “Sir? There is a man here to see you. I’m sorry, but he’d only tell me that he had an appointment with you.” Caleb looked at his calendar and saw that, like he had thought, nothing was there. “Shall I send him on his way?” “Yes. Tell him we’re a house of mourning and don’t have time for his shenanigans today. Thanks, Ben.” Caleb went back to work after smiling a little smile at him. Ben would enjoy sending the man on his way more than warranted, Caleb thought.


It was nearly dark when he finally lifted his head from work. He’d been behind, something he detested, but he wouldn’t have changed things one bit if he had it to do over. Spending the last few days of his mom’s life with her had been hard, but it had also been something they both needed. A time to say goodbye. He went to the parlor first. The room was devoid of anything pertaining to the last days of his mom’s life. The bed, as well as all the equipment, was now gone. The couch and chair that had sat in the room prior to being a sick room were now back in place. She would have wanted it done like this. Moving on. Mom had said that to him at least ten times a day when she’d been ill. Going to the kitchen, he thanked Mary for what she’d done for them. Bursting into tears once again, he was glad for the warm hug from her. She sat him down, feeding him more than he thought he could have eaten, yet he finished every bite while she spoke to him. “The director called here. I told him you were resting. I know you well enough to see that you working is almost the same as you getting a good eight hours of sleep. Did you get a lot done, Caleb?”

He told her he thought he was caught up for now. “Good. She would have wanted that. Getting back to life now that hers is over. My goodness, I will miss that woman. She had a way about her that made a person wonder where she’d been all their life. And now that she was around them, well, they had a friend for life.” “She even told me which suit to wear at the funeral. And to wear one of her button roses on my lapel.” He laughed a little. “I don’t know what I’m to do without her. If she were here right now, she’d smack me in the back of the head and tell me I know just what to do and to get on with it. Mary, I’m not sure what to do, to be honest.” “You keep doing what she wanted of you.” Mary got up and began cleaning the already spotless kitchen.

“She called me to her room the other day. Asked me to stay on here until you got your feet under you. I’m not sure you ever had them under you all the way, but I’ll stay until you decide on what you’re going to do. She also said you’d marry soon. I didn’t have a comment for that. I was not aware you’d been dating.” “I was until recently.” He thought of Violet and shook his head. “I don’t think she’s going to be happy with me. I’ve decided she’s not the woman for me. She told me she couldn’t live here with me after having a death in the house. Like I had asked her to or something. No. She didn’t even come here to sit with me when Mom was in her last days. Told me she had more important things to do than to watch someone die. I thought that was very telling. What would she have done had it been me, I had to wonder?

Do you think she might have gone shopping?” They both laughed, and it felt good. Laughter had been encouraged within the walls of this house, and he’d missed it a great deal since his mom had been diagnosed with cancer. Mary told him he was to call the director back and to do it now. He was headed to the living room when he called, and it was answered on the first ring. “I’m sorry it’s so late, Mr. Carroll. I got into things here and didn’t think you might need something from me. What can I help you with?” He told him that his mother was ready, did he want to see her before the funeral. Did he? Caleb wasn’t sure
but said he’d be there in the morning. “What time can I come in? I don’t want to disturb your household.” “I’ll have to have the little ones off to school by nine, sir. That should be enough time for you to get your hugs if you were to come by at eight-thirty.” Caleb said he’d very much like that. “Good.

I’ll tell Margaret. She’ll have them fed by then. They’re as sorry as the rest of us are about her passing. She was a wonderful woman, your mom. Didn’t take on like she was better than anyone when you needed a shoulder to cry on or even a little lift up. I don’t know that I should be saying this to you, but you couldn’t have had a better role model or mom than her, Caleb.” “I know. I thank my lucky stars all the time that she decided to keep me. I think we were very good for each other.” He felt his eyes fill with tears again and wondered if there would ever be a time when he didn’t want to sob when he thought of his mom being gone. “I’ll see the family in the morning then. And then see to my mom. I’m sure you did an amazing job, Mr. Carroll.”

After closing the connection, he headed up to his room. Caleb had lived in this house all his life except for the few years he’d gone off to college. Even then, he’d been home weekends and holidays. The two of them, with Mary and Ben, had had such good times together. When they vacationed, Mary and Ben had gone as well. Making sure his suit was clean, he pulled out the shirt his mother had picked out for him too. Smiling, he wondered what everyone would think about it. He was positive that no one would expect him to wear a pink paisley shirt with a suit. But that was what his mom wanted, and he was going to do this one thing, the last thing he could for her, without any qualms about it. Closing his eyes after stripping down, he wasn’t sure he could sleep. But almost as soon as his head hit the pillow, he was out. He knew his alarm would go off well after he was up, and if not, then it would wake him to get started on his day. Caleb was nothing if not organized.

The next morning, he was up and ready to head out the door by a quarter to eight. Excited to see the kids, he stopped by the store to pick up a few things for them. Yes, he did spoil them, but they were his god children, and he loved them to pieces. Sharon met him at the door with a stern look on her face. She was the most adult eight-year-old he’d ever met. “You brought us stuff, didn’t you?” He handed her one of the wrapped gifts he’d picked up for her. “Your momma would bust your ears if she knew you were doing this. She said you spoil us too much.” “Yes, but she was just jealous that she didn’t spoil you as much as I did.” She grinned at him. “I’ve missed you, Sharon. You and Paul. My mom thought about you often while she was ill.”

“I’m gonna miss her too. She was the best grandma in the world.” Sharon hugged him tightly around his neck when he bent to her level. Picking her up, he carried her into the kitchen, where her brother was still eating. “Paul, you were supposed to be done eating by now. How are you gonna give Caleb hugs when you’re covered in mush?” “I’ve dressed for the occasion. Come here, Paul. Give me a big hug.”


After getting his hugs, the kids ran off when he handed them the other gifts he’d gotten. Making sure they knew they needed to come to him before they left for school, he settled down with Margaret and Paul. “I’ve done as she asked. My goodness, I do love her choice of her sending-off outfit. Your mom, she wasn’t one on doing what others did, was she?” Caleb laughed, knowing that his mother had picked out an outfit that would not just shock but would make people laugh. It was what she had wanted. “If you’d like to see her after the children have gone, I can take you there. The service will be in the large chapel. I’ve also been receiving a few flowers.” “There won’t be a notice in the paper. The people that need to know have been notified. That’s the way she wanted it.” Wilson nodded. “She’ll be happy with the way things are going. I plan on doing just what she wanted. Because knowing her as well as I do, she really will come back and smack me on the back of the head if I don’t.” “She was a good woman, that mother of yours.”

Margaret handed him a framed photo of the two of them. “I never saw a woman so determined to make sure she was successful after having you. Abby wanted only the best for you and her after being tossed out. It’s a small wonder she didn’t want her parents notified in the paper. They didn’t deserve anyone like her as their daughter. Nor you as their grandson.” “I’m to tell them in person.” Neither one of them said anything after he made his announcement. “She told me it has to be done in person and that I wasn’t to allow them to say anything to me about how she was a terrible child. There is a letter with our attorney that she wrote in her final days. If they refuse to read it, then I’m to read it to them, so they understand what sort of person she was. Do you suppose they would have kept up with her life after her leaving home?” “I wouldn’t think so.

Abby wouldn’t have been one to let them into her life after she was tossed aside, either. Have you heard from her brother? What was his name?” He told Margaret. “That’s it. Sheppard. What a piece of shit he was too. Even before Abby left home, he was a mean little prick.” “Margaret.” She huffed at Paul when he scolded her. “We need to keep a civil tone with this. For all we know, they wanted to contact her but weren’t sure how to go about it.” “Doubtful. I knew them before this happened, so I’m in a position to tell you they weren’t nice people at all.” Margaret went to get the children, as it was time for the bus. “Mark my words, Caleb.

When push comes to shove, you push them back as hard as you can. They don’t deserve any sympathy at all for what they did.” After hugging the children, he made his way to the lower level to make sure that Mom was just the way she’d wanted. There were a lot of things in the room, including flowers that indicated that a donation had been made in the deceased’s honor. Mom looked to him as if she’d fallen asleep and was resting peacefully. It hurt him again how much he was going to miss her. “You got her hair and makeup just perfect, Mr. Carroll. And the shirt is perfect for my mom. She bought this about four years ago when we were in Hawaii.” Carroll said something, but Caleb was thinking about that vacation. “She found a way to work with some of the beautiful shells that were in abundance around the island.


I think she must have put three or four kids through college with that venture.” “I’ve seen those houses. If I remember correctly, they were featured on the cover of a few magazines as well.” He nodded and turned from the casket. “You’re going to be just fine, Caleb. You’re your mother’s son, and you’ll gather strength where you least expect it, I’m thinking.” Nodding, he left. There wasn’t much he could say to that. Caleb went home to work again and found that he could bury himself in work, and the pain would lessen. He was nearly finished working for the day when Mr. Fowler, their attorney, called to ask him if he needed anything. “Nothing I can think of. I’m assuming you’re wanting to get her will taken care of.” He said there was no hurry. “Thank you for that. But there are a few things you have for me that I need to take care of after the funeral. Mom said you have the addresses.” “I do. Wasn’t hard to find them. Mr. and Mrs. Anderson still live in the same house. I only had to read the paper to see where her brother was. Nasty piece of work, him. Anyway, it’s all here.

Just tell me when you want to go, and I’ll go with you. You are taking me, right?” That was what his mom had wanted in the event they tried to hurt him. “Also, there are some envelopes here for Mary and Ben and for the children of Mr. Carroll. I’m assuming she paid for them to go to college as she had mentioned before.” “I don’t know, to be honest. She didn’t want me to know all her plans. Mom said it would spoil the surprise. I’m not sure what she meant by that, but I guess it’ll be all right.” Gus laughed a little. “If you could bring it to the funeral home tomorrow, I’ll take care of it after the reception at the house. If you have time to go then?” “I’ve only worked for your family for years, Caleb. Watched you grow into a good man too. No, you tell me when and I’ll be there with bells on.” Thanking him, Caleb decided that if he could, he was going to keep Gus on until he was too tired to work for him. Almost as if he had read his mind, Gus spoke again. “Also, you might want to know that I’ve been looking into a replacement.

I know you and your mother have paid me well for all these years, but you need someone younger than this eightyyear-old geriatric. My granddaughter would be good for you or her brother. Might need them both after a while. But I’ve told them all they need to know about your plans, as well as your money. Who would have thought that when your mom came to see me, fat with her baby boy, that she’d be one of the richest women in the world? She certainly did work for it. So have you.” Caleb went to bed that night, knowing he had to be on his best game tomorrow. It was going to be a long day, and he wasn’t sure how well he was going to handle it. But he also knew that in some way, his mom was watching over him, so he was up for the challenge. At least he hoped he was. The next morning, he was at the funeral home at a little past seven. Hugging the kids again gave him strength and love. They were not going to school today, he’d found out, so they could be there for their parents. It was going to be a big funeral, and all hands were needed.


Caleb thought that having them where he could grab a hug or two was going to be just the thing. Kids, he knew, had an understanding of grief that went well beyond their years on this earth. When everyone was seated that there were chairs for, a great many people standing around the room, he went to the podium and cleared his throat. It was time, he thought. A microphone had been unearthed so the people in the long hall leading to the chapel could hear him. “I noticed that a few of you got a kick out of the way we’re dressed. You know Mom. When there was a gathering of people, she wanted to party.” Another round of laughter, and he pulled out his notes. “My mom approved my speech that I’m going to give today. I also want you to know that while I was writing this, she was checking my spelling, as well as looking for any grammatical errors. She knew I’d have it all wrong if she didn’t. “My mom was seventeen when she was tossed out of her family home. Again, this is her story, not mine. Her parents decided it was shameful to have an unwed daughter around when she began to show.

Not to mention, according to her father, she was spoiled for all other men after that, whatever that meant to him. Then, when I was born, she sent a telegram telling her family of my birth. That she had had a healthy baby boy and that we were both doing fine.” Looking at his notes, he continued. “After my birth, Mom made sure she could support not only herself but me as well. After getting her high school diploma with me at her feet sleeping, she got into college and then got a job.” Caleb almost skipped over some of the notes but went back to them. “While she worked and studied, Mom taught me what hard work and determination could afford a person. It’s a lesson I’ve taken with me all my life and will continue to do so.” He knew this next part was going to be the hardest to say. “Several months ago, after finding out she was beyond help with the diagnoses of cancer, she began making plans that would be felt by the rest of the town we call home for the entirety of its future.” There were a few murmurs of wonder, but he ignored them.

“I’ve decided it would be in all our best interests if I should carry on my mom’s legacy and continue to support the causes we have before.” Before sitting down, Caleb announced that there would be a reception with light food at his home. Going to his seat, he watched as the funeral director took his place and announced that there was a nice luncheon at the Anderson home. Then he asked people to go to their cars. He’d said all he wanted to say at the funeral home. At the reception, people came to wish him well and to tell him how sorry they were for his loss. Caleb wanted to tell them that sorry didn’t bring her back to him, but he didn’t. His grief was profound. The finality of what they were doing here hurt him deeply in his soul and heart. People came to speak to him about his mom, telling stories that they knew about her that he knew as well. There was one that he so enjoyed thinking about. It was about when Mom had come upon a child in one of the barns, crying because her cat was going to die. The little thing was in hard labor, and the kitten was turned the wrong way.
After assisting in the birth after resolving the issue, Mom stuck around for the rest of the birthing.

“Then, not two weeks later, Mr. Jamison calls her up and tells your mom that he has a cow in a bad way. Not sure why he’d think she could help, your mom, being her, she went there and helped with the birth of that cow. Mr. Jamison, he named the calf after her, and to this day, he refers to it as Abigail when asked. Darnest thing I done ever did see, I tell you.” Mr. March laughed and acted like that was the only time his mom had gone out on an emergency like the ones with the cow and kittens. “I heard tell she was there when Mrs. Parker gave birth to those twin little boys too.” There were many stories like that one. Mom had driven the school bus one week when the system had been short-staffed. She’d helped bring in some crops, driving the big tractor like she’d been born to it. He loved all of them, even the ones told about when he was an infant. Mr. Fowler caught up with him just as people were beginning to leave. As they entered his office, he was sure he was going to tell him something he didn’t want to hear. Gus told him he’d not be able to go with him in the morning, as something else had come up. “I’m to be acting county judge tomorrow.

The one that was coming here to hear some of the backed-up cases got himself a case of food poisoning, from his mother-inlaw, of all people. Anyway, they didn’t really ask so much as told me that it was my duty as a good standing attorney to see to this. I’m hoping it’s a one-time shot, but who knows what will happen with all this other stuff going on.” Caleb said he could go when he was finished. “No. I’ve spoken to my grandchildren. They’re good, Caleb, if not a little green on things. They’re ready to go with you to keep you out of hot water if things go badly there.” Caleb did want to get this over with and move on. When Gus handed him the things he’d need when he went to confront his mom’s parents—never would they be his grandparents, he thought—he decided to go. “I’ll go, but I don’t like it. I wasn’t even sure I was onboard with it when I thought you were going with me.” Gus said he was sorry. “Not as sorry as they’ll be if I have to get into it with them. But you are right. I need to get this finished so I can focus on my life without my mom.

I knew she was dying, Gus, but it’s hard for me to realize she’s gone. I find myself looking for her or even going into the parlor when I think of something I want to say to her. I wonder if it will ever get better.” “Yes. It’ll soften after a while, the pain of it. When my Marie passed on, it was all I could do to get myself cleaned up and fed daily.” He laughed a little. “Your mom did a fine job of shaking me around a little. But she was good to do that. Not only did she save my life—I’ll believe that forever—but she got me moving in the right direction to keep my sanity as well. That mom of yours, Caleb, she knew how to make a person see her way about things.” “She was the best.” Gus agreed with him, and Caleb smiled. “I’ll take both of them with me tomorrow. That way, they can show me that they can work with someone like me. Someone who is a little too demanding at times but means well.”


“Yes, well, I don’t think you’re demanding at all, but a man that likes to get things going. Also, before I forget, once you’re back, we’ll go over your mom’s will. There are a couple of things she added in the final few days. Some of it you’ll need to care for.” Caleb asked him if he needed to take care of them now. “No. nothing like that. But just some things she had for you. I’ll see you when you return, Caleb. You do what your mom asked, and that’ll hopefully be the end of it.” After getting a file from his car regarding the family, Gus left. Kylie and Arthur were to meet Caleb here at his house at seven sharp. It wasn’t a far trip to make, a couple of hours of driving time, but since he was driving, he didn’t want anyone to make him late.

Jonas Robinson Destruction Release Blitz&Giveaway

Jonas Robinson had his hands full but was loving every minute of it. Those four children needed him, and he had to admit he needed them as well. If no other family came out of the woodwork wanting them, he had his heart set on adopting them.
Ginger Morgan, a talented photographer, worked undercover for the Government. She was good at her job, but it often put her off the radar for weeks at a time. She had just heard of her sister Sissy’s recent hospital stay when she returned to town.
Sissy had it in her mind that she wanted a ready-made family and wanted to take in her nieces and nephews, whom she had never met. When Ginger found out who had the kids, she called her college buddy, Dawson Robinson, to find out more. What happened next had all their heads spinning.
Ginger was swept into a world of intrigue as Rogan Robinson brought her team in and hid them from the world. Those children’s identities had to be kept secret at all costs. Now that Ginger and her family were involved, they would be targets as well.
Ginger knew a little about shifters, but being mated to one was something she’d have to give some thought to. And being a mother was something she’d never wanted to be—until now….
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A fresh start was what Rogan Hall needed. A small town, out of the way, where no one knew her or her brother was where they’d start over.
She worked from home, and they kept to themselves. The only thing Rogan couldn’t give up was her early morning run.
Like clockwork,
she ran every morning, and again, like clockwork, the same family would pass her on the country road heading to who knew where.
The little boy in the back seat would wave at her with such enthusiasm, it made her heart melt. However, that morning, everything would change.
Only moments after the car passed her and drove around the bend, she heard a loud commotion.
Another car barreled past her, and she found the quaint family’s car overturned and on fire.
Rogan did the only thing she could do,she saved them.
Thatcher Robinson was on duty at the hospital when his parents contacted him through their link and told him about the accident
and what to expect when the ambulance arrived. Thatch, his dad, told him they had to save the woman by changing her,
but her burns were severe, and his dad wasn’t sure that the new tiger would survive.
When Rogan regained consciousness,
she was unsure where she was, but she knew she was different. She could feel the tiger move just beneath her skin.
Rogan knew very little about shifters, but what she did know had her cringing. Why someone would take it upon themselves to change her,
she didn’t know, but when the young doctor, Dawson, said his brother was her mate, she was furious. If the big, bad,
Thatcher thought he was going to order her around, he had another thing coming….
Anna didn’t know what to do with the man who acted like he was attached to
her hip. Every time she moved, just to get up and move
to the bathroom,
he’d be right there with her, helping her into a panic attack. Not really,
but that was what it felt like to her.
Morgan wasn’t sure what he’d have to do to convince Anna that he wouldn’t
just up and leave her. She was a tiger too, and she knew they
were mates
just as well as he did. But for some reason, he couldn’t get her to trust
him.
“I don’t think that I’d offer you my hand.
You’d more than likely bite
it off.”
She growled at him.
“I’m not sure if you feel the same way I do about me growling at you,
but all it does
when you do it is making me want to spread you out before
me and lick every square inch of you.”
Trudy Justice was good at her job, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t vulnerable. Caught unaware by a fellow FBI agent, the gunshot wound
to Tru’s gut nearly did her in. To the world, Tru was dead. Rogan was hiding her out until they could figure out who had marked her to
be a target.
Houston Robinson, a tiger shifter, was preparing to shift and take a much-needed run when a strange woman’s voice interrupted
him before he could remove his pants to shift. At first, he was irritated, but when he saw the blood, he wanted to help.
Hurting bad and suspicious of everyone, Tru was in no mood to listen to anyone, especially a shapeshifter claiming to be her mate.
She didn’t care how nice he pretended to be….
Allie Langley was upset about losing her job. It wasn’t the teaching job she wanted, but it helped pay the bills.
It was just how her luck had been running since she’d moved to that town: first, she’d been kidnapped and tortured,
now the job. What next?
Becket Robinson’s car had broken down, and he needed to use the phone. He hadn’t expected to
find his mate when he knocked on the door, but now that he had, he couldn’t wipe the grin off his face. It didn’t matter
how much she ranted and raved about it either. She would fit right in with the rest of the family.
But when Becket discovered her injuries and how infected they were, he called in Thatcher, one of his brothers,
to help.
Allie collapsed in Beckett’s arms when her fever spiked. Allie’s brother begged Beckett to change
Allie into a tiger to save her. Thatcher agreed that converting her would be the only way to save her.
Beckett knew he was damned if he did and damned if he didn’t. But, he couldn’t let her die….
He knew he was going to have one pissed-off mate when she finally woke up. If she woke up….
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Morgan  https://amzn.to/2kCfxKI
HOUSTON https://amzn.to/2Z6v0ob
BECKETT http://amzn.to/34ueKzj
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Jonas sat in the office and waited for the doctor to finish up with Hailey. He was glad that he’d asked Rogen for help in finding him a good psychiatrist for the child. At only ten, Hailey was having more difficulty than the other kids. Her lack of trust was beyond anything he’d ever seen in his life. Even his brothers, who were both doctors, were worried for her. The door opened, and Hailey came out, with the doctor right behind her. “He said I’m insane.” Jonas looked at the doctor, who was laughing while shaking his head. “Well, he might as well have said it. He thinks I’m not telling him everything.” “Are you?” She shook her head and turned to look at the doctor before looking at Jonas. “That’s all right, honey. Whatever you need to do, I’m right here for you.” “You say that, but then you bring me here. Why?” He told her, deciding that lying to the kids was going to hurt them all in the long run.

“I have my reasons. Why do I have to share them with a stranger?” “Will you tell me?” She looked back at the doctor, then at him again. “Hailey, have I given you any reason not to trust me? At all? If I have, then you have to tell me what it is. I can’t fix what I don’t understand.” “That’s what Ms. Tru said. That she can’t fix what she doesn’t understand that is broken. Do you think I’m broken, Mr. Jonas?” He said he didn’t know, that he didn’t want her to be afraid of everything. “I’ll have to think about it.” When she walked back to the doctor, he got down on her level. Dr. Miser was supposed to be the best child psychiatrist in the world. He hoped so. Jonas really was afraid for his children and their mental well-being.

“I’ll come to see you. But I don’t trust you.” Dr. Miser told her that he was well aware of that. “I know you are. But I’m not going to give you that until I’m sure. I’m not insane—you know that, don’t you?” “I do. More than you do, I think. You have some trauma that you’re not dealing with well, but I think with time, the two of us can get to some sort of conclusion. I’m not going to make you trust me, Hailey, but I am happy that you’re at least willing to have an open mind about it.” She told him point blank not to put his horses before the cart just yet. “I promise you I won’t. But I do see a lovely little girl that has had more than her share of things happening to her that never should have. Also, you might find this hard to believe right now, but you couldn’t be with a better group of people than the ones you are right now.

They wanted only the best for you and your brothers and sister, and they hopefully found that in me.” As she returned to him, Jonas was so happy when she took his hand into hers. She would do that on occasion, but not often enough for his heart. As they were making their way to the car, he saw that Rogen was there waiting on them. Rogen was large enough with child that he worried about her just walking around. But like the rest of the men in his family, he didn’t say a word to her. She asked Hailey how the appointment went.


All four of the children were coming to see the doctor now. Even Sarah, the youngest of the children, seemed to be coming along better with his help. The only holdout was Hailey. Tru had told Jonas that he should search her mind for the issues, but frankly, he was afraid of what he might find there. “It was all right. If you’re here to drop that kid, then I’ll help you. I helped my momma deliver Sarah. I’m not one to faint with blood all over me.” Neither of them said anything to her, but Hailey seemed to realize she might have said too much. “Mr. Jonas said he’d take me to lunch if I didn’t murder the doctor like I wanted to. Are you going to join us?” “I’d like that. Are you really going to murder the doctor? I have to tell you, he’s a good friend of mine, and while I can understand wanting to murder a doctor, he’s been a good man so far.” Hailey said that for now, she wasn’t going to.

For some reason, Jonas wasn’t reassured by her comment, but she got into the car and strapped in. “She’s going to be a lot to handle when she does spill out what she’s holding to her heart. I thought you’d like to know that I’ve talked to Sissy Whitman and her father. There is a sister, Ginger, that is around, but she’s out of contact with most of the world. I’m trying my best to narrow down what it is she does, but she’s off the grid most of the time. How are you doing?” “Great now that they’re all not sick. I’ve hired a nanny—thanks for the suggestion. Sarah is coming along nicely now that she has her diaper rash under control. Thomas and—” She told him she’d asked about him. “They are mine, Rogen. I find that I can’t function without them around me. I know they’re more than likely going to be adopted by their aunt, but I love them with all my heart right now, and I don’t know what I’m going to do without them.”

“Benny Whitman is in jail. He hit his wife, Sissy, in the face and did some pretty painful wounds to her head. That was only the second time he’d hit her, but it was enough for her to call in her father. You know Heath Morgan, don’t you?” Jonas said he did. “I thought so. Thatcher said you’d done some work for him a few years ago. Sissy is his daughter.” “I wonder how that will affect whether she is interested in bringing the children home with her. They’re a great deal to handle. I’m sure she can afford the help she’ll need.” Jonas had to turn away. Thinking about the kids leaving him was almost too much for him. “I really love them, Rogen.” “I know you do. We all do.” He nodded and opened the front passenger door for her to get into his car. “I can’t ride with you—I have my car over there. However, I’d love to join you. I have some things on the burner at home that I need to care for. I’ll meet you wherever you’re headed.” He laughed as he was getting into the car. If she said burner, he knew for sure it wasn’t on the stove. Rogen had about a dozen computer monitors going at any given time that she worked with. Jonas was happy that she was willing to meet him. People looked at him oddly when he was out alone with one or all of the kids like he was some sort of pervert.


Hailey was getting better about going out to lunch with him. So long as she didn’t drink anything but bottled water, which he brought with them all the time, she was able to eat things that were hot. Pizza, so far, was her favorite meal. Tru had told her that if there were any poisons in the pizza or anything associated with it, it would be cooked out in the oven. It had taken her three times to be able to eat an entire slice. Now, however, she wanted her own personal pizza. He’d never seen a kid like her food to be so spicy that even he couldn’t get close to it because the smell burned his nose. Tru and Hailey would have contests about how hot they could handle it. They were waiting on their food when Rogen turned to Hailey. “I found out what made the four of you sick that day at the apartment. It wasn’t anything you could have avoided.

What I mean is, it wasn’t poison like we thought, but the vitamins that Cindy was giving you each day. For some reason, they were sold expired. They should have been tossed out about a year ago. Not her fault either. The store they were gotten from should have caught that too.” Hailey asked what she’d done about it. “What do you mean?” “Did you kill them? The people that work at the pharmacy?” Rogen said she’d not thought about it, but if it would make Hailey feel better, she could have them shut down for a while. “No. I don’t want that. But someone should have to pay for making us all sick, don’t you think?

Mr. Jonas was freaking out, and then he had to call in his mom. Who I like, by the way. She doesn’t understand me, but she is a nice person.” “My mom loves you very much, Hailey. All of you.” She nodded but didn’t comment. Jonas asked about the stash. “I was just curious if there was any word on how it was stored where it was.” Thomas and Bobby had moved nearly five-thousand pounds of drugs from the back of a semi-truck trailer to one that had been sitting on the lot their parents had at one time rented. Having it right there under their noses had been the perfect place to keep it from their father, as his plan had been to sell it all and get himself “better children.”

Garry, the kids’ biological father, had stolen it from some very bad people and the kids, worried that it would kill children like them, had moved it, over a period of three weeks, into the trailer sitting abandoned on the land behind their home. “It’s been stored away. We did it on our own, so there is no trace of it on any books. The thing is, no one has said a word on the streets about it being missing. That’s what we’re hoping for. Some idiot comes along and starts spouting off about how he’s been robbed.” Jonas asked if that had happened before. “Sure. For the most part, bad guys are stupider than fuck.” “Packer. That’s his name.” They both looked at Hailey when she spoke. “What? Did you think we’d be out of touch with what was going on in our home? Never that. If we didn’t pay attention, we’d be hurt for sure. I don’t know anything more about him, but that’s what his street name was. He would come around the house when Mom was away at some jail, and Dad would tell this Packer guy that he didn’t know shit about it.”


“Do you happen to have any idea what he might look like?” Hailey said he had tats on his face. One of them was an ugly unicorn or some kind of horse. Rogen pulled up her phone and fiddled with it as their food was brought to them. “Is this him?” The whispered way that Rogen was talking to Hailey worried him a great deal. He didn’t want the kids involved in this. However, he also knew that Rogen and the rest of the family needed help in getting this taken care of before someone else came for them. Also, that even now, they were being guarded with the utmost care. No one would get by anyone in his family to get to the kids. Hailey took the phone from Rogen and looked at the picture. When she asked if there were more of him, Rogen told her to just flip through the photos there and see what she could find. It was perhaps three or four moments before Hailey handed her back the phone and picked up a slice of her food. “The man you showed me first is Packer. The second and fourth men in those pictures are always with him. I don’t have their names.

He usually just nods at what he wants, and they get it for him. I think he might be some kind of shifter person. One time I saw him get all furry like Mr. Jonas does when he’s all upset about something.” Hailey looked at Rogen as she chewed her food. As soon as she was finished with that, she spoke again. “They carried guns when they were at the house. I helped them move those when we found them. I can’t tell you where they are until I talk to my brothers. We made a pinky promise not to tell without all of us agreeing.” “Is there anything else the four of you stashed around? I mean, things that Packer or one of the others with him might have mentioned?” Hailey nodded and continued to eat her food. Jonas was honestly too afraid to eat. He didn’t know if he’d be able to keep it down the way that— “Wait. Did you say Packer got all furry like I do? Or were you just using me as an example?” Hailey told him he was a tiger, just like he was. “Christ. Thatcher can summon him to him if he’s not already told him he is in the area. In fact, he can call him to him anytime he wants. Will that be something you can do?” “I can.”

Rogen kissed Hailey on the head and got up to leave them. “I’m so thankful for you, Hailey, that if there is a reward for this, I’m going to make sure you get it.” “You can give it to little kids that need it more than we do now.” Hailey eyed him. “Unless you want to take it for yourself, Mr. Jonas.” “You four earned it. Whatever it is, you should take it for yourselves and use it for college or something. I wouldn’t dream of taking your money from you after all the hard work you’ve done.” Rogen left them there after waving at the waitress and staff. Not too long ago, he and his family had gotten someone out of this place that was being abused. It was a small world, he thought. “Mr. Jonas, I have a question for you.” Jonas told Hailey that she should just ask him. “We’ve been around you and your family for two weeks now. You’ve never once hit any of us or lost your temper. And when we need something, even if it’s just an extra blanket, you give it to us. Are you really this nice all the time?”


“I’d like to think I’m that nice. However, as you know, I do have bad days.” She said he’d never taken it out on them. “That wouldn’t serve anyone if I were to do that, now would it? But in answer to your question, what do you think my mom would do to me if I were a mean person and didn’t allow you an extra blanket?” “She’d beat your head in with a wet noodle.” His mom had said that to him on more than one occasion when he’d been younger. “I’m sort of afraid of her. Not that she’s hurt me or anything, but she could, I think.” “Mom would die before hurting anyone. Unless they were planning to harm any of her babies. To her, you are all her babies.” She shoved away her pizza, and he was happy she’d been able to eat all but one slice. “If you’re ready, we can head back to the house. I’m to understand that Bobby is going to have my brother come and visit him today.” “Why do you care?” That gave him pause, and he asked her what she meant. “Why are you so caring, Mr. Jonas? No one else gave a fiddle about us. You’re nothing but a stranger, and you’ve done more for us than anyone ever has before. Why?” “I have an answer for that, I think. I love you guys. I know you’ve heard me say that to you before.” She nodded. “All right. I tried to get your mom in a place where she could take care of you if she wanted, but I have since changed my mind about that.

I don’t think she’d be any better to you than your father was. And I want you four as safe as I can make you. Is that a good answer for you? I can go deeper if you want. But I know how much you hate when I get mushy.” They were both laughing as they went out to the car. This time when he looked around, Jonas could see the men following them—their guards. He’d never been one for people hanging out with him or around him, but he felt a good deal better knowing they were there. Driving home, he decided he was going to take his mom up on her offer to get him a staff. Having people helping with the kids was nice, but he had a feeling that if staff were there, he’d have a lot less stress in keeping up with things. ~*~ Sissy was just getting home from the grocery store when there was a knock at her back door. The only person that used it was family, and when she opened the door, thinking it’d be her father, she was so happy to see her sister. “Dad called and left me a message that you were in trouble. Christ, that prick really changed his tune about being around you, didn’t he?” They hugged several times before Sissy saw that her sister was hurt.

“It’s nothing. I wasn’t paying attention to where I was walking and tripped up on a log. Fell against a boulder and broke my arm. How is your face? You look like shit if you don’t mind me saying that.” “I know. People have been pointing that out to me for the last several days. But I decided that getting back to my life is more important than caring about people pointing and staring at me. How are you?” Telling Ginger to sit down, Sissy made them both a cup of tea. Knowing that her sister didn’t care for anything but black tea, she made her a cup. Sissy had a cup of Earl Gray, her favorite.


“Great, but for this arm. I would have been home sooner, but I had to finish up the pictures I was assigned to take. Dad told me you were with him, and I knew you’d be all right. Have you pressed charges yet? That little fucker needs to pay for what he’s done to you.” Sissy loved her sister so much and was thrilled to have her with her. She told it like it was, and that was just what Sissy needed. “If you’d go with me to take the pictures to the company that asked for them, you and I can get going on whatever it is you’ve been keeping from Dad.” “How did you know?” Ginger just laughed and said she’d not known. “You’ve done that to me before, and I can’t believe I still fall for it. Yes, I am keeping something from Dad. And I want you to help me with it. Benny’s sister? Margo is her name. She is out of jail just recently and wants her children back. That’s what caused this last thing with Benny. He didn’t want to go get them because one of them might be black. What a fucked up reason not to want them close by. Anyway, I want to go and get them and bring them back here.”

“You know I’ll do anything for you, but what the hell are you going to do raising a couple of kids?” Sissy corrected her. “Okay, four of them. I’m not saying you can’t do it, but Sissy, that’s a lot of work. What do you know about them? Much at all?” “Are you asking me if they’re black too?” Sissy knew she’d hurt her sister, and when Ginger stood up, so did she. “I’m sorry for saying that. I know what you’re asking me. I honestly don’t know what I can do or not. I’ve never been around children much before. I’m simply stressing over everything I have going on. Please forgive me, Ginger. Please?” “Don’t say things like that to me. All right? You know as well as I do that I could care less about things like skin color and their sexual preference.” She hugged her again, and they both sat down. “Do you know where the kids are?” “I do.

They’re in Ohio with a family there. It’s not a long flight, but we can drive from here if you’d like. Pittsburg isn’t a long trip but still too much to do in one day. I think you might be familiar with the Robinsons.” She knew that her sister knew the Robinsons and asked her what she knew that wasn’t in the background check Dad had done on them a long time ago when she’d gone to college with one of them. “I think you went to school with one of them, correct?” “Yes. Dawson. He’s the youngest. A doctor.” She could tell that Ginger was thinking about them. “Can I tell you my opinion about the kids being with them without upsetting you?” Sissy said she wanted her to tell her. “They might be better off with them than you trying to raise them on your own. I love you, Sissy, but as you’ve said, you don’t know a great deal about children.

Especially ones that have been around Margo. I can make a call to Dawson, but the last I heard about them, they were taking in children that had been abandoned for a while now.” “All right. Will you call him? Then if he tells us that they’re better off with them, I’ll believe him. But I’d really like to go and see them. They’re my nephews and nieces, and I know nothing about them other than they’ve been born.” Ginger pulled out her cell phone. “I can’t thank you enough for this. You don’t know how much I’ve been worrying about them.”
“I’d like to speak to Dawson Robinson, please. My name is Ginger Morgan. He and I went to school together.” Sissy couldn’t hear what was being said on the other end, but when Dawson must have come onto the line, Ginger spoke again. “How the hell are you, dumbass?

I didn’t think I’d get through to you. I figured you’d be out on the golf course or some other equally stupid shit I’ve heard about doctors.” Ginger told him she was putting him on speaker phone. “I’ve not thought of you in…well, I’m not going to say how long it’s been. Busy with life. But I do reminisce about some of the antics we were up to. No, not on the course. I don’t have time for that now that I’m working for myself. Holy Christ, Gin. I miss you. Where are you now? Still taking pictures of weddings and grads?” “No. Wildlife. I just got home and was told that my sister’s soon-to-be exhusband has some relatives that might be in your care. I don’t know a great deal about them, but the Feds were supposed to have called Benson a few weeks ago to come and get them. I was hoping that my sister and I could come out and see what we can do about this.” Sissy heard the background sounds cut off when a door was shut. “Something wrong, Dawson?” “I’d say that’s an understatement. How much do you know about why we have them?”

Sissy spoke up then and told them she knew nothing more than what someone had told her husband, brother to Margo. “Hello, Sissy. Your sister spoke highly of you while we were friends in college. About the kids…I’m not sure what I can tell you over the phone. If you’d like to come out here, I can arrange that for you, but you’d not be able to tell anyone where you’re headed or why.” “Is it that bad?” Ginger watched Sissy’s face as Dawson said it was about as bad as he’d ever seen it. “All right. You make the arrangements, and we’ll head that way. Should Dad come with us? I don’t want him left behind if we can help it.” “You give me your addresses, and I’ll make sure your homes are watched over.” Sissy was starting to get very nervous about this now that it seemed the kids might be trouble.

“Bring Mr. Morgan with you too. I’d like to see him again. But just be careful, guys. There is a great deal at stake, and a lot of lives involved that could be endangered should there be any kind of leak out there.” “Call me when you find out anything. In the meantime, we’ll get going here. Nothing packed, so there is no reason to think we’re leaving. No mail stopped. Nothing.” Dawson said he’d take care of it. “Good. Thanks. I’ll wait to hear from you.” Twenty minutes after her sister hung up the phone, an officer came by the house. He said he was there to inspect the windows and doors as he’d been asked to do. As soon as he was in the house, the man went through the house and opened the back door, letting several men in with not just guns on their person, but also armor and other very scary equipment. Ginger was handed a cell phone, as well as a bag. When they were told to stand in the hallway, three men went over the house with equipment, telling them they were to search for bugs and other devices. A camera was set up in the dining room, and they were asked to have a seat. First, however, Sissy was asked to call their dad over for lunch.


Dad was happy to join them. She wasn’t to tell him that Ginger was at her house, nor about the people in her home. Sissy was beginning to see that the kids were in deeper shit than even she thought anyone could handle. As soon as their dad joined them, they were asked to go to the computer monitor and have a seat. Someone appeared there almost as soon as they were surrounded by the men that came with them. “Hello. My name is Rogen Robinson. I work for the Federal Government. My family and I are protecting the children and want to make sure that when you arrive, you’re as safe as they are.” Dad asked what was going on. “I can’t tell you anything right now, Mr. Morgan. Only that the children are safe and that we’ll make all the arrangements to have you brought to them. As you’ve been informed, you’re just to leave your home the way you entered. Ginger, you’re not on the radar just yet, so when you leave, I’d like for you to go out the back the way you entered and into the woods. The car you drove is no longer parked where you left it, but someone is there you can trust with your life.” “Since you’re not giving us anything to work with here, you tell me why I should trust you with my family, Ms. Robinson.

They’re all I have in this world.” Someone entered the picture with them, and Dad asked Dawson what was going on. “They’re treating us like we’ve done something wrong here, Dawson. You know us. We’d never harm a fly.” “Mr. Morgan, had you been even the least bit suspicious that the men in the home with you now were there to kill you?” Sissy asked Rogen if that was necessary to tell them. “It is. I won’t lie to you about any of this. I will tell you that the kids are heroes and have been working with us since we brought them here. Once you arrive, you’ll stay with my husband and I, and we’ll explain everything. For now, you’ll do as I asked. The phone that Ginger has is secure. If anything goes wrong on your end, even if one of you are even remotely worried about something, call. The men with you are going to be at your beck and call until you arrive. Trust them as you would each other.”

“And if we don’t?” One of the armed men came into the room then and put the gun to her father’s head. “Are you trying to scare me, Ms. Robinson? I’m made of sterner stuff than having an empty gun to my head.” The gun was fired at the wall and blew a hole large enough that she could see her side yard. Sissy started crying when Ginger stood up and punched the man that had fired in the face. Then while he was falling, Ginger kicked him in the crotch. He went down much harder than Sissy had thought, but Ginger had always been strong. Ginger then stood in front of the monitor. “You fuck with my family like this again, and I don’t care who the fuck you’re working for. I’ll hunt you down for the rest of my life to kill you. Understand?” The woman laughed and said she did. “Good. My dad isn’t healthy, and doing shit like that will hurt him. I will not hesitate to pull the gun from your downed man and kill the rest of them here, even if it means my own death.” “I like you, Ginger. No, I won’t pull any more tricks on you.”
After Rogen told them again how to leave the house, they did so without any more incidents. They were on the plane in short order and served not just drinks but lunch as well. It freaked Sissy out a little when they not only had her favorite meal for her but a cup of hot Earl Gray as well. Sissy was even more terrified, thinking of what they did know about her and wondered how much more they knew about her and her family.