Logan Release Blitz & GiveAway 9/5/16

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                                          synopsis

      

Logan Douglas was bored. Everyone seemed to have something to do, a purpose, except him, and he didn’t know what to do about it. He needed to get out of town or get a life before he killed somebody. And if Mason made one more snide remark about him being available because he didn’t have anything better to do it was gonna be him.

Charlie Stone knew the meaning of being overworked and underpaid. That was the story of her life. If she hadn’t needed what little pay she got from the nursing home, she’d have quit a long time ago. Now, the police were shutting the place down and she had nowhere to go.

Logan had found his mate, Mary Shafer, when they were still children. They knew what they were to each other, but Mary had been killed by a drunk driver when she was only ten. As far as Logan was concerned he’d lost his only shot at love. One mate in a lifetime, everyone knew that. But what Logan couldn’t understand was his attraction to the feisty beauty, Charlie Stone. She couldn’t be his mate, he’d already lost his shot at that….

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Mystery Signed PaperBacks 
So Far  are July 2016
Kerry Erickson 
Yarita Santana
Robin Dennison
Kathryn Baulis 
Aug’s Winners 2016
Reda Blair 
Ann Ivey 
Shana Weley 
Shane’s Release News Letter winners are 
Karey Smith
Tracy Kolberg
Marie Grahman 
For the new winners if you have not gotten your signed  mystery paperback please 
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If you are in this area  this weekend  please stop  for this signing  Saturday 5pm to 7pm  I will be giving away a gift basket  and  book swag  and Elizabeth will also be giving away  a gift basket  so stop on by  !!!

Kathi S. Barton Author &  Elizabeth Hartman Seckman  Book Signing at Empire Books & News
30 Pullman Sq, Huntington, WV 25701
Sept 10 5 pm to 7PM
                                      Happy Reading ,
Chapter 1
“I’ve no idea.” And he didn’t as he sat there looking at the paperwork in front of him. Logan wanted to hand it over to his brother again, but Zach had asked him to come over and look at it and he was going to do that. But as far as knowing if it was a good deal or not, he wasn’t sure what to tell his brother.
“To me the interest seems a little high. But then as Landon said, I only have this ground as my backup, and I’ve not made but two payments on it so far. And the first one was late because I forgot to take it to the bank while they were open.” Logan handed the paperwork to purchase the tractor Zach needed back to his brother as Zach continued. “It wasn’t really late, but I wanted to pay it on the day it was due, not the next day.”
“You’re going to hurt yourself overthinking this shit.” Logan got up and pulled them both a bottle of water from the fridge before being seated again. “Okay, here’s the way I see it. You only get the interest charged to you when you drag out the payments for as long as this loan is for. I’d not pay it off too soon…there is the matter of you having no credit. But after a year, I’d pay it off and move on to something bigger. You’ll more than likely need it the way things are going out there anyway.”
“The family is buying the grain I raise the first three years. I can’t sell to anyone else.” Logan said he knew that. “And Jace is paying to have a barn put in, one that will hold all that I can grow, as well as the tractor.”
“I’ve seen the plans. It’ll be large enough to hold three of these suckers.” He took a drink of his water, trying his best not to think of what was going on right under his ass with his own home; and to not be angry about it. He was angry a great deal lately, and wasn’t entirely sure why. “I’m guessing that the work on your home will be finished before Christmas, right?” Zach said that things were moving right along.
When Logan had moved into the family house, given to him by his aunt, he’d had no idea what he was getting into. The furniture was all nearly new; the carpets were worn through in some places but in otherwise usable condition. And he had a roof over his head that didn’t leak, so long as it didn’t rain for more than three or so hours.
When the furnace, nearly as old as he was, broke down, he’d called in someone to fix or replace it. What they found was that not only was the furnace not worth saving, but the house would be, even with the installment of the new furnace, worth less than it would cost him to have the furnace put in. The foundation was shot.
Logan had to find someplace to live. He’d been told that with the age of the house, the way that it was out of date, and now the foundation, he’d be better off building new rather than fixing. He knew that in order to have a safe home he was going to have to start over or find himself an apartment in town and use the land for something else. What that was, he had no idea. He’d not decided on what he wanted to do yet. Moving away—out of the ranching business, the family business, and away from them all—was sounding better and better all the time of late. Not that he didn’t love them, but he was bored out of his ever loving mind.
The man who had come out to talk to him showed him the way the foundation was slipping, and in less than five years, not only would the house fall in on the basement, but the waterlines were in bad shape, as well as all the electrical wiring. He told Logan that the wiring would probably burn it down long before the house fell, but there was little doubt that it would fall.
“How much longer are you going to be staying here? I’m to understand that you’ve been told to move out.” Logan told him he was working on it. “It’s really sad to see it go, don’t you think? There are a great many memories here. And in the yard. I don’t know that I’d be able to have it torn down either.”
“I have someone coming in next week to pack everything up. You got what you wanted out of here, right?” Zach said that he had. “Jace and Mason are coming by later to get the rest of the things they picked out. And there are the pictures that I still have to go through. I’ve taken them to a storage unit in the event something terrible happens here. I never realized how many boxes there were.”
“I don’t envy you at all.” Logan assured him it wasn’t so bad. Zach stood up and stretched, and said, “Okay, I’m going to sign the paperwork and have them deliver the tractor when it gets into town. I think they said five days from the time I get the money to them until I have it. But about the house, Logan…as I said before, you can come and stay with me should you want. That trailer that I’m staying in is pretty nice.”
“I’m all right here. But I’ll keep it in mind.”
Logan sat at the table for another hour before he got up to make himself some dinner. The rest of the family, his other brothers that were mated, had butlers, cooks, and maids. He and Zach were the only two that had to make due for themselves. Logan wasn’t sure, but he thought he might like his way better. Less people underfoot.
As he made his way to the ranch, riding old Sable, his horse, he thought of his days now. He’d been in charge of repairs, a daily thing, since before Jace had married. And since there was nothing old—not even houses, except his own, that were older than a few months old—his job consisted of taking hay out of a trailer that might be on the property and loading it in one of the many barns that held it for the cattle and horses. Or—and this one drove him nuttier than a fruitcake at Christmas—he was set to ride lines. Lines that a hundred other people working the ranch checked every day when they were out and about.
Frankly, he was thinking of taking a job in town, just to have something to occupy his mind rather than all the things he wished he could do. And just lately he’d been thinking of going into one of the barns and breaking a bunch of the new shit so he’d feel useful again. Viable, he thought. Because for all his family saying that they needed him around, Logan certainly didn’t feel it. He felt like a fifth wheel.
“Just the man that I wanted to see.” He looked at the tractor trailer in the yard that he could see was filled with bales of hay, and then back at Mercedes. “I think that can wait a minute or two, don’t you?”
“Yes, ma’am.” He tipped his hat back, wondering what she’d need him for. As far as he knew, she had several of the hands eating right out of her hand. “I do have an appointment at noonish with one of the builders. Do you think it’ll take that long?”
“No. It’s a matter of one of my pieces of equipment. Georgie said you might be able to help with the instructions.” He said he’d give it a try. “I was hoping you’d say that. And so you know, I had no idea you could speak another language.”
“I can when pressed.” He could actually speak ten languages, not including a few that he was picking up from reading books—antique books that were older than Monroe—and he was good at math. Of any kind. She handed him a stapled together stack of papers that looked like photo copies of photo copies of a manual. “And this would go with which of your fancy new machines?”
“The portable ultrasound machine for the animals. Mostly for the horses, but I thought using it for the cows won’t be much different if need be.” He nodded and started reading the instructions while she explained. “I have read the English ones three times and I keep coming up confused. I think it was poorly translated. I’m not sure from which language, but I know it’s not well done.”
When she moved out of the room to speak to someone at the door of her offices, he picked up the oversized laptop looking thing and started comparing the steps to have it work to what he was seeing on the machine. By the time she returned, not even half an hour later, he not only had it turned on, but the display screen was now in English and not the French it had been.
“This is wonderful. Thank you so much. How did you do it?” He explained how whoever had set it up had simply pushed the wrong button. “That’s it? I’ve been playing with this thing for three days and you only had to change the language? Christ, I should have asked you sooner.”
It was more complicated than that. There was also uploading the new software that hadn’t been updated before it was sent to her, and turning on the links she would need to be able to read it in her office and out in the field. But he only shrugged when she thanked him again.
Logan made his way back to the overloaded trailer to start his day. He was pulling the first bale of hay off the trailer when Mason came to find him.
“I’d have thought you’d have more of this done by now.” Logan said nothing but felt his temper rise. “Not that it matters. But I was wondering what your plans are for this evening. I have this meeting I have to attend in town and wondered if you’d go with me.”
“Everyone else too busy?” He knew that he sounded bitter but didn’t bother taking it back. “I don’t have any plans. What sort of dress is required? I don’t own a suit that fits anymore. And my other tux is at the cleaners.”
He was snipping, and the more he said the more his voice took a nasty turn. By the time he talked about his tux and the lack of having one, he was nearly ready to leap at his brother and tear him apart. An overreaction, yes, but he just couldn’t seem to control his temper of late.
“What’s up your ass?” Logan just popped his neck but said nothing. “For the last week you’ve been biting and snipping at anyone that comes close enough to talk to you. Even Bonnie, who I might add you made cry. If you have an issue with one of us, you should tell us before you get hurt.”
“You want to try and hurt me, Mason, then bring it on. I’m about in the mood to kick your ass all over this ranch.” When Mason started to climb up on the hay with him, he looked at the doorway where someone had whistled at them. To them would have been a better description. It was more of a way to get their attention. Landon looked amused as he took his fingers out of his mouth.
“You boys got nothing better to do than beat each other to snot, then I’d like to borrow Logan for a minute or two first. I don’t have time to hear his bellyaching any more than I do yours, Mason.” Logan looked at Mason, who looked ready to commit murder. “Or I could just go on in and tell your aunt that you’re out here making a mess of things when there is work to be done. I’m thinking you boys are still afraid of her even though you’re grown men.”
“What is it you want?” Logan cleared his throat and started again when Landon only cocked a brow at him. “I’m moving hay. Again. And probably will be tomorrow too, if you want to know the truth of it. Whatever you want, you’ll have to ask the master here.”
Mason looked ready to resume the fight that Logan had offered up to him. It was on the tip of his tongue to provoke him more, but Landon laughed. Logan stretched his neck again and got down off the trailer.
“We’re not done here.” Logan just nodded. If he was honest with himself and Mason, he had no idea why but he thought he’d actually love for Mason to hit him; a lot, and hard. He walked to Landon and told him he was free to help him. Mason continued talking as he walked to the older man. “Logan, when you get back, we’re going to talk.”
Saying nothing, Logan followed Landon to his truck and got in. It was walk away or have the shit knocked out of him. Mason wasn’t a mean fighter…neither was he, but Logan wanted blood, and he didn’t care if he had to shed a bit to get it. He was angry all the time he thought, too angry.
“You wanna talk about it?” Logan told Landon that he didn’t. “Well, suit yourself, but you should know you keep it up and there is going to be some tarring and feathering going on. You’ve been making quite the name for yourself around here of late.”
“I’m bored.” Landon said he could see that. “And fighting with someone will make me less tense. I think. I’m thinking that I need to move on. The house, the land, the lack of jobs…it’s taking its toll on me. And my well-being. All I want to do is just sit at home and stay there. Not have any contact with anyone at all. And I’m sick of doing shit jobs, Landon. I haven’t done a damned thing worthwhile in a long time.”
“What if I needed you for something that hasn’t a thing to do with cows and horses? Heck fire, boy, I’m not sure that this’ll be anything that I might like, but I’m bored too.” Logan pointed out that he wasn’t fighting with his family. “No. No, I’m not. Could, I suppose, if I wanted to be in the dog house with my wife, or on the outs with my daughter and son-in-law. I’ve been getting myself in and out of trouble like you have, and I think we need a plan.”
As they turned down a driveway, Logan felt himself begin to relax. He rolled the window down, despite the cold of the air, and thought maybe he should get a new truck. Or at least something that he could drive around in style. Not that he could afford something like this vehicle, and he didn’t need anything to get around in but his steady
and sometimes slow horse. But Logan thought he might enjoy having something. When the truck stopped moving, he looked out the front glass, only just realizing that he’d closed his eyes, and looked at the house and barn.
“Is this the Martin farm?” Landon said it was and got out. Logan was almost afraid to join him. He’d heard stories about this place all his life. Most of them he knew were untrue, but to see this place now, he could almost believe them. The area surrounding the big house was unkempt and overgrown.
“You thinking about the ghosts that haunt it here? I been out here three times in the last month. I haven’t seen a single darn one of them.” Logan asked him where the Martins were. “William died about three months ago, poor old soul. He knew it was coming; had me out to talk to him a bit here and there. Then when he passed on, the kids stuffed Dolly into one of the nursing places where she is tied to a bed all day and only let out when it’s feeding time. But she’s getting out soon, I heard. Had a doctor say she was doing all right and able to get out to one of them assisted living places. I don’t imagine that sets too well with them kids of theirs. They’re a lot like my Dirk was. Everything is about them.”
Logan knew that Landon and his wife still hurt about Dirk and what he’d done to them. He also knew that Katie was getting help, too, for her depression. Logan loved these two people like no one he’d ever loved before. His own parents had been gone for so long, he’d begun to think of them as their substitutes a long time ago.
“I’m sorry, Landon. I truly am. But I have to admit, I don’t remember seeing anything about the Martins’ children.” He looked at Landon when he said nothing. “We helped them out last year. He got sick and we came to help him and his men out by picking grapes. I liked Mr. and Mrs. Martin, but like I said, the children weren’t around then.”
“Yeah, I remember that. Right proud of you for doing that too. But he never did recover from what had put him down. Heard tell that when he passed on the kids were so mad at him that they only did what they had to do to get him buried. Then when the will was read, they got rid of their Mom too. I’ve been to see her a couple of times.” Logan said he thought they’d been friends of his parents. “Your parents, they did right by them. Even before you boys were coming along, they’d go over and help them out. Their own kids never did appreciate them.”
“Why are we here then?”
Landon opened the front door to the house. Logan was surprised to see that the man not only had a key, but seemed to know just where the light switches were, as well as glasses in the cabinets. But when he pulled a pitcher of tea from the fridge, Logan asked him what was going on.
“Six months or so before William passed on, he called me over here to have a little talk. And some of his wife’s pie. She couldn’t bake one to save her life, even when she poured the middle of it from a can, so I knew when I got here that I was in trouble. He was dying even then, he told me, and needed my help.” Logan nodded, sipping his drink. “Dirk was alive then. He’d been in trouble with something, like he always was, and I called William back to beg off. But he said that he wasn’t long for this world and it would do him good to see me. So I packed myself up and came over. I found that in the three or four months since I’d seen him last, William had aged a great deal.”
“His kids.” Landon nodded and got up and brought them a box of cookies. Not the kind that was homemade, but ones that had been processed so much they were only cookies because some ad guy said so. “What happened when you got here?”
“He told me that he wasn’t going to be around long, and that he needed to settle some debts up before he passed on. One of them being about his daughter, the one that he’d fathered when he was a younger man.” Logan leaned back in his chair and said nothing. “I can see where your mind is going. You’re thinking that I might should have stayed at home. And I might agree with you but for what I found out. She’s gone; this girl died before he had time to do much for her. He found out about her too late. You knew her too, Logan.”
“No, I don’t think so. I told you, I didn’t know his children.” He watched Landon pull out some pictures from a worn yellowed envelope, and almost wanted to get up and leave when he handed him one of them. Even upside down, he knew the face when he held it. “Landon, whatever you think you know, I’d just as soon you tell me. Those pictures…you know as well as I that she was not a child of Mr. Martin’s.”
“But she was. A child he fathered long ago. An affair, he told me, one that he regretted the moment he did it, but for the child he never knew. Mary Shafer, she was his little girl.” Logan took the picture and held it but didn’t look. He knew what she looked like as well as he knew his own face. “You and her, you were mates.”
“Yes. We were. She was killed by a drunk driver when she was ten. We’d been in school together, hung out when we could. I knew when I saw her what she was to me, even as young as I was. I tried to help her, protect her, but that was out of my hands.” Landon said he knew that too, William had told him. “I had no idea that William was her father. Not that it mattered to us who she was. We were just children.”
“Yes, you were. Now, Dolly, William’s wife, she knew who she was too. Even the mother. Dolly was a better woman, I think, than most would have been, and opened her doors to the child when it was apparent that her mother wasn’t giving her the things that she and William had sacrificed to get her. Clothing, a better home. All the money he sent for her each month went to habits that weren’t beneficial to her child. So when she was killed, little Mary was in his will too.” Logan got up and paced the big spacious kitchen. “Logan, William knew who—”
“No. I don’t want to hear it.” Landon said nothing. “Whatever plan the two of you hatched up, it has nothing at all to do with me. Mary died, and I knew then that things like having a mate and a home life were gone to me. I’ve moved on. I had no choice, but that didn’t stop me from grieving for her like I’d killed her myself.”
“Have you moved on, Logan? On account’a, from where I’m sitting, you’re stuck.” Logan stared at the man who had been the father figure he’d never had. His dad might have been just like Landon McBride, more than likely would have been right there with them in this room. But he’d died. “You’re carrying around some powerful hurt now. Seeing the others get their own mates, them having babies. You’re hurting, aren’t you?”
Logan thought about shutting him up; the anger surged forward like a quick moving storm over his body. When he sat down again, Logan picked up the other pictures and
thought of the little girl who had meant the world to him. He realized then that Landon was right. He was jealous of his brothers, and was letting it color his world.
“She and I were inseparable. We did everything together…skinny dipping in the pond not far from here, sneaking into the barn late at night. I’d bring her food and blankets. One summer she spent the better part of it in that big barn, eating what leftovers I could sneak out to her. I was never sure why she was there or why she wasn’t getting enough to eat wherever she was from, but we had fun. I even brought her things in the house and washed them up when no one was looking.” He knew that his aunt had guessed she was there, or that someone was, and had begun leaving things like extra chicken and bread on the counter for him to take. “Then one day, just like that, she was gone, dead because some bastard ran a stop sign and killed her at a crosswalk.”
“He left it all to you.” Logan asked him what he’d said. “The vinery, the house, barns. Even the wine making business, it’s all yours if you want it. There is more than enough money to keep it running, forever if you wish. He said that he knew of all the men he had met in his lifetime that you’d make it viable and keep it going.”
“I don’t understand.”
Landon pulled out another envelope and handed it to him. There was a copy of the will and a sealed, smaller envelope with his name on it. Landon pointed to the small colorful tabs on the side and told him to read that first. William Martin had named not just him in his will, but also his little girl, the one that had died all those years ago.
“I bequeath all my worldly goods and possessions to Logan Benson Douglas, a man of good standing and intelligence. I wish for him to run my winery, live in the house, and keep it going in the name of a child that we both loved. Mary Shafer, my daughter, would live here too but for my lack of sense.”
“What did he mean by that?” Landon said nothing and Logan was afraid that if he did answer, he wasn’t going to like it. “Landon, why did he leave it to me? You know, don’t you?”
“His little girl was killed by her mother; the drunk driver was none other than her own mother.” Landon leaned back in his seat while Logan tried to wrap that up in his mind. “You want to know more, you’re going to have to read what he wrote you. But you should know that if’n you don’t take the land and what he’s given you, the kids will get it. And as much as it grieves me to say this, they’re no better than my own son was, and this place will have condos on it by the end of next year. And you know as well as I that this is good farm land, and to have them plopping houses on it is gonna do nothing for your family’s ranches.”
“They butt up against each other.”
Landon nodded. If he said any more or showed him anything else, Logan had no idea. When he came back round, the thoughts swirling in his head, he noticed that the sliding door was open to the deck off the kitchen and he could see Landon’s booted feet. Getting up, Logan went to see Landon to let him tell him this was a joke. Not a funny one, but a joke all the same.
“You all right now?” Logan said he wasn’t sure. “Yeah, don’t blame you none there. There’s a lot to take in. If’n you’re ready for the rest of it, then I can give it to you.”
“I’m not sure yet. What do his kids think of all this? By now, I’m sure that they know.” He said that they did and were none too thrilled about things. “Are they going to give me any trouble? I mean, if I take this?”
“You already took it, son. The only thing you’ve not done is moved in. And that could be done lickety split.” Logan told him he knew nothing of grapes and wine making. “I don’t imagine that many do unless they read up on it. And there is the foreman that is taking care of things for you. Production has been going on, grapes were tended to. William has been gone for a bit, not even a year, but someone’s been here all along.”
Logan sat down on one of the deck chairs and realized that they were fairly new. Now that he thought on it, Logan realized that the kitchen seemed to be updated and clean. He wondered what he’d find should he go looking around the rest of the place. He asked Landon about it.
“He had it all taken care of. Most of the renovations, they occurred before he passed, but he wanted things to be prettied up for you. Dolly, she said to me that last time I was out there to visit her that that someone had been hired to come in and take out all the personal things and put them in storage. The house, the lands, they’re all ready for you.” Logan asked him why now. Why had he waited so long? “It was time.”



Shane Dragon Savior Release Day & Giveaway 8/22/16

Please scroll down to enter for a signed paperback 
Lelani Wayne trusted no one but her familiar, Roger. And even he, at times, got on her last nerve. She didn’t like being around people. People made her nervous, and when a witch as powerful as she was got nervous, it could be disastrous for anyone in the vicinity.


A powerful witch, Erin Wayne, knew she was going to die, and reached out to the closest being she could find to take her powers and memories. She connected with Kiaran, Asher’s dragon counterpart. The jolt of the transfer took all the Benson’s to their knees.


The Benson’s were on a mission to finish the reconstruction of the castle. Shane, and his dragon counterpart, Keion, were doing their share to make it happen. But when Shane saw his very pregnant sister-in-law, Essie, bringing lunch, and a stranger approaching her fast, he couldn’t get to Essie fast enough. The baby was coming–now.


Lelani was looking for Kiaran to get her sister’s memories and warn him that the Herald, a group of witch hunting zealots, might have traced the memories and be after Kiaran as well. What she didn’t expect to find was Shane and Keion, two very big, handsome, virile men, invading her personal space claiming to be her mate. That made her nervous….
Aedan  News Letter winners was
                                                                KERRY ERICKSON
                                                                 KATHRY BAYLIS
                                                                 YARITZA SANTANA
                                                                  ROBIN DENNISON
Jorden news Letter  Winners was  
                                                                     Reda Blair 
                                                                     Ann Ivey 
                                                                    Shona Wesley 
You should have already gotten your book in the mail if you did not get it please contact Denise at denisek0319@gmail.com and let her know , She will have the tracking numbers
Happy Reading ,
Hope  to see you there !!!!!!!!
 Kathi S. Barton Author & Elizabeth Seckman Book Signing at Empire Books & News
30 Pullman Sq, Huntington, WV 25701
Sept 10 5 pm to 7PM
Prologue
“Tonight, we will rid the world of another witch. Their magic, their unholy ways of making others do what they wish, their worshipping of Satan, will be abolished with them one at a time, so long as we have breath in our bodies to do so.” Rohm Herald looked out over his followers, men who believed as he did, that witches and their kind should not be allowed to be a part of this world. He turned to look at the witch on the stake behind him, at her face and then her belly, fat with no doubt Satan’s bastard no matter what she said to the contrary. Her lies had brought her here, and she would die knowing that he’d done all he could to bring her from the darkness this night. “Do you give yourself over to His word? Do you now forsake the lifestyle that you have lived, following the man with a forked tongue and black magic?”
For an answer, she spit in his face. He wished they were alone even now. He would wipe that smile from her face even as he cut her heart out. Rohm drew back his hand to slap her, to bloody her blasphemous lips once again.
“You do and you will never see your next child take its first breath. Mayhap you won’t anyway, if I can help it.” The words, spoken softly, felt as if she’d burned them into his head. “You will stop this foolishness, Rohm Michael Herald, or I will bring a curse down on you that will be felt generations down your line. So far removed from you that you will think I lie, that my magic has no meaning to you.”
“Are you saying that you be a witch?” She laughed then, her head thrown back in mirth that made his body tighten in fear and anger. “You will die this day, by fire, should you not tell me that you have no magic in you, that you do not practice the arts of witchcraft if you be one. Renounce now and I will spare you the death of fire.”
“I will die anyway, and you know that. You have it in your head that I will, and that will come to pass. Even my babe, your grandchild, is going to die with me because you care not to hear the truth of my words.” He did know that, but he would make her death quick, much quicker than that which was planned. “I am a witch.”
His congregation gasped at her words. Then when she laughed, the sound of it echoing over the vast field that they had been using for a year now to rid the world of women such as her, once again Rohm felt the stirring of fear settle over him.
Rohm had no choice in this now. She had made her decision and now she must die by it. Lifting the flame that had been handed to him by his second, his own son Michael, he turned to the men that had worked with him for so long. It was coming up on midnight, the bewitching hour, he’d been told; time to do his duty for the world.
“Tonight we bring to our fold Mary Wayne. She has been found guilty of being a witch; has admitted to us all here that she is what we feared, the child of Satan.” Mary laughed behind him and began speaking, her voice too low for him to understand her words. Raising his own voice, Rohm continued. “We burn the devil from her and his child within her. Then when it is done, and all is balanced in this world, we will give her body a proper burial and bless her for her life. For being a mere woman, she knows not what she has done.”
The sound of her words came to him then. She was cursing him, and those that were in the field beyond. When he turned to her again, the flame ready to set to the wood there, the moon was blotted out for a moment. He staggered back when two great beasts landed in the field with them. But as he made his way to them, thinking the beasts were there to eat them, a man appeared in the place of one of them, a woman by his side in place of the other. Rohm thought perhaps it was his mind playing tricks on him, or maybe the witch making him see things that were not there. The man and woman were close enough to make out now, and he nearly welcomed them.
As soon as the flame in his hand went out, the men that he could call upon fell to their knees, then to their backs as the man and woman walked by them. They had surely killed them, he thought. And would him as well. Soon it was just the four of them, Mary, the couple, and himself. Rohm felt his body tighten, his skin crawl, when he dared to think what this might mean. They too were witches, powerful ones that had come to murder him.
“Mary, you’ve gotten yourself into trouble again, haven’t you?” The witch called the man his lordship. “Rohm. I can see that you have not heeded the advice of others, and have perhaps bitten off a bit more than you can chew in this. You were told to stop killing the women that will not heel to your word. And that burning women at the stake isn’t the way things are done. Were you not?”
“She has claimed boldly to be a witch. Has admitted before my men that she is indeed a practitioner of the dark arts. In this, she has left me no choice but to do as my fellow believers wish and burn the devilry out of her.” Mary claimed that she had not. “I heard you. You said you were a witch.”
“She is a witch, but does not wholly practice the dark side of it.” Rohm backed up when the man, a great warrior, stepped up on the dais of stone set up for him to stand upon when Rohm himself was at his duties. He looked to be a man of great wealth and size. His body was lean, not an ounce of fat upon him, Rohm thought, not at all like he was. “But it’s not the reason that you’ve brought her here, is it? You’ve another agenda that has nothing to do with dark or white magic, but with her babe and your son. You should learn more about witchcraft and the people who use it if you plan to use it against them. Dark arts are—”
“Anthony, he cares not what they practice,” the woman said with an air of authority. “Nor does he care if she is indeed a witch or not. Others have not done as he told them, and he’s found reason, much like he has with Mary here, to have them killed. Mary has done nothing to him, save not telling him sooner that it is his own son who is the father of her unborn child. It is only happenstance that she is also a witch.” Anthony turned to the woman at his side and smiled at her. Rohm could almost taste their love for each other, feel it as if it were a warmed blanket that had been dried on the line in the yard. And it pissed him off. Women were not to show such emotions to a man, especially not in the public as this one was doing. He’d opened his mouth to call her a witch as well when she simply looked at him. His throat grew tight and he could not speak. But she could. “Come, the night grows cold and we have much to do this night.”
“So we do.” Anthony turned to the witch, and with a snap of his fingers she was down on her knees in front of the stranger. “Mary, I have a task for you should you like. If you’ve no wish, there will be no punishment and you will be well paid for your troubles this night.”
“He meant to kill me, my lord. I feel it my duty to end his life where he stands. I am here only because his son, Michael, could not keep his pecker in his pants when he has a wife of his own.” Anthony looked out over the field, and Rohm knew the exact moment that Anthony spied his son. “He will need to pay for what he has had done to me this night. I have no house, my books have been burned, and he has taken my coin as well.”
“Do not think to harm my son, sir. I know not who you are, but should you harm him, I will find you and make you pay.” Anthony looked at him then, and Rohm felt his body burn with the desire to run and never look back. “He is my only son. You will not harm him.”
“Nay, I will not harm him.” Rohm felt the air rush from his body then. But it was short lived as the man continued. “But he will not live to see his next child born, nor will you, I fear. You both have been found out, I think. His wife and your own lady wife know of the bastards that you have sired. There is a lot going on at your house this night.”
Rohm looked at Mary and could see her head bent, her body shaking with her laughter. When he reached for her, his knife in his hand before he could think how close the man was, Rohm decided that he would kill the witch himself. But his body grew hard till he could not even blink when the man told him to stop. The command in his voice, as hard as the stone he stood upon, held Rohm there. Then the man helped Mary up till the witch now stood near the woman and the man as he spoke.
“As I have mentioned, we’ve a task for you should you like to take it. It will be one of great importance to me and my family. It concerns the babe that you now carry.” Rohm watched as the woman touched her hand to Mary’s bastard child. Did they not know how unclean she was? Did she even care what she was doing? That inside of her grew a child that was made in sin? But he could no more speak to them than he could move. He could only watch in horror as they moved away and out of his reach.
This is not to be, he thought. He was in charge of clearing the world of such things as witches and other things that he did not understand. He cared not for what they had to say, but it was his duty, as a man of the cloth, to do this thing. For now, there was little to nothing he could do. But he would rise again, and soon. Rohm had lost this battle, but he would find her again.
As the midnight hour passed over, then the sun began to rise up and over the mountain, Rohm could finally begin to move. His body was sore, stiff from lack of movement. But his mind, his plans for the woman and man, and even Mary, had been plotted out. He would be ready for them; he would have his revenge in this.
He would find them. Even if he had to do so on his own, he would find them and kill them for what they’d done to him this night. When the men with him began to move, standing and looking bewildered, Rohm started barking out orders. He wanted this done, he wanted them dead. His next grandchild was due to be born in a matter of weeks.
“Find Mary, bring her back to me.”
No one questioned what had happened to her, where she had gone if not up in flames, but moved as if they were in a trance, their bodies as stiff and sore as his. But when one of the men called to him, told him that something had gone wrong, he knew with each step he took that his son, Michael, had died this night, and by the hand of, if not the witch, then the man and woman with her.
His son, the only living son of his loins, lay where he had dropped, his body fat with laziness, his face relaxed in death. Leaning over his child, he touched his fingers to his face and found him to be cold, as cold as the ground that would soon welcome him.
Rohm thought that nothing could have prepared him for the pain of it. It rolled over him in waves of anger, sorrow, and hate. The feeling in his heart blackened, killing whatever peace and good will he’d had there.
Rohm’s son had been born to him late in life, his wife having given him nine girls, all of them useless. She had gone to her own cold grave when she’d finally done her duty to him and given him a son. So happy he was with his namesake that Rohm never saw his wife die, leaving the room as soon as his child was given to him. Rohm couldn’t even say if she had been dead long when he’d taken his child to the church to be baptized, having him blessed in the event that something befell him too. He had wanted to take no chances with this boy. He thought that blessing him so soon after his birth would prevent him from being sickly and dying.
“Lord Herald, what should we do now?” He looked over at the wood piled high yet unburned by flame. The stake that he himself had cut down and put in the ground stood in testimony to the fact that he had failed. “Shall we take young Michael to the undertaker now?”
“Yes. And tell my eldest daughter….” He couldn’t remember her name, not that he would have tried had he even known it. “Tell her that I said to prepare a feast for his wake. When he is buried, it is then that we will find this woman and man and bring them here for their crimes against us. Mary will pay for my son and all the other sins that she has heaped upon my door.”
“Man and woman, Lord Herald?” He had no idea how to describe them, so sending them on their way to take care of his child, he moved to his dais and sat upon it. The words of the man and of the witch came back to him. He would not see the birth of his next grandchild.
~~~
Anthony wasn’t sure what to make of the woman that walked with them. She wasn’t rude really, but she was too blunt for his taste, then she would act as if she were wounded and stupid if you called her out about it. It was difficult to keep up with her conversation as well, which was flying from one thing to the next like something bouncing in a room. And he knew from what they’d been able to see in the future that she wasn’t to be trusted, not even with this task, but she would not have much say in what they needed of her. She need only to give birth, that was all. The rest would work itself out. When his own lady wife told him to stop his thoughts and behave, he thought that he’d been very good in not taking her backside with his hand and showing the witch how to behave.
Eve, the heart of his body, her own body heavy with their children, looked as beautiful to him as did the sun setting over his castle. But they had seen what their future would be and had decided to take care that things were prepared for their children, children that they’d never see or meet should things come to pass as they were shown to them. This woman, one of many, would help them in that. She wasn’t as good as the others nor as magical, but needed all the same. Mary was the first of their tasks to set into motion, and Anthony was worried that they’d made a mistake in her.
You know as well as I that we have not. And it is not the woman that we’re depending upon, but her child. He looked at Eve when she spoke to him through their link. Mary’s daughter, she will be the key to many doors that will open that will save our children.
I know that, my love, but I do not have to like her much. She need only to understand what she is to do and when to do it. I fear, as I can feel that you do as well, that she is not up for the task. I worry for her part in this. If she does not heed our warnings and stay where we put her, then she will die, and her child as well. She assured him that Mary would do well. I hope so. I should hate to think of her failing them in their hours of need.
His wife told him that she would not fail. There was little doubt that she was to have a babe and that it would be a daughter. The rest had already been set in motion, and she need only to live long enough to bear the child. Eve patted his hand, then turned back to Mary to tell her of what they needed.
“Mary, we know that you have magic, but not a great deal of it. You can cast spells that come to pass, but other than that, you have nothing more.” Mary opened her mouth, but his lovely mate only raised her hand to stay her words. “I will not listen to you puff yourself up, Mary. You know as well as I that I am telling you no falsehood. You might be able to fool others with your misguided attempts to be a great sorceress, but we both know you have no more power than this rock does. Now cease these lies once and for all.”
“‘Tis as I have said about his son, my lady. He took me over and over one day and I conceived his bastard. When I went to his father when he’d do nothing to support me, I was beaten again and brought before the group you found me with.”
They also knew this to be only partly true. Michael had taken Mary, anywhere that he could find a hard surface. But she had enjoyed their coupling as much as he had. It wasn’t until she was full of a child that she complained. That was when he’d hit her, knocked her away from him, and scorned the woman. After going to the man’s father, she was taken into the cell that had held her until she was to be burned like nothing more than meat upon a spit. Anthony thought that humans, for the most part, were an odd group of beings.
Anthony wished that he could take all the men in the world that would raise their hand to someone smaller and without means of protecting themselves and burn them. It would take a lot of his flame, he thought…there were that many horrid people in the world. But there were times, he also knew, that the women could be just as mean, just as cruel as any man could be. Sometimes, in his experience, more so. People in general, he had learned, were not willing to think before speaking when they felt an injustice had been done to them.
“We have need of your help, in the form of a female child…your child. Her magic is greater than your own and will need guidance in the world that we live in. If you do not listen to me, follow my direction, she will surely die and you will be burned at the stake that we have saved you from this night.” Mary rubbed her hand over the babe there but said nothing. “Anthony and I have a place for you to go. A place where you will be safe and kept from harm should you do as you are told. There will be help as well, for you and any children you should have after you have given us this help. You will have more than enough coin to keep you, and food enough to never feel the pangs of hunger again. All you have to do is keep the babe safe and to help her grow into her magic. If you wish to say no, then we will leave you to yourself and go about our business. But know this; you will die, soon, and by the flame that nearly licked at your feet this night, Mary Wayne.”
“I have no wish to die, my lady. But I’ve no way of keeping her safe, either, unless you do indeed help me. Even now he plots my death.” Anthony knew this to be true, but also knew that his son was now dead, as cold as the ground that he fell upon. Not from the hand of the woman here, but because his own lady wife had found out about the babe Mary carried and the others. She had poisoned him. “I cannot keep myself safe now, much less a child. You say I will have coin? Servants? Someone to cook for me?”
“Yes. We shall protect you.” Mary began shaking her head even as his lady wife spoke. “You know what we are, Mary. You have known this since you were a child at your own mother’s feet. A dragon can protect you like none can. And we shall.”
“My babe, she has a meaning to you? You wish to buy her from me? I will gladly birth her and sell her to you.” Eve shook her head; they would not lie to the woman, but they couldn’t tell her why they’d not take her from her mother. They might not give her all the truths of it, but they’d not lie to her. “Then you take her. Raise her as your own so that she’ll be safe, and I will live in this house you have given me for payment. With the servants, of course. I shan’t be able to keep a house like I need on my own.”
Anthony wanted to tell her no, that someone as selfish and greedy as her should be punished. To think that she’d sell her own flesh and blood for nothing more than a house. Anthony would no more do that than he would cut off his lovely wife’s head. He wished now that they’d never seen the future, especially the one in which they needed this woman’s help.
“We cannot take your child. And should you wish not to do this, there will be no coin, no servants, and no home to keep you safe. You must do as we tell you. The hour, it grows late, and the men are, as you said, plotting.” He and Eve moved forward, deeper into the forest where the house was, knowing in their hearts that they’d have to convince this woman no matter what. But they also needed to be firm in their dealings with her. “You will come with us now. We will protect you and the babe so long as you do as you are told. We’ve set up this place to be safe and ready for you, with people there to help you once you have given birth.”
It took them nearly an hour to get her settled in her new home. Anthony wanted to shift, show her how well they could protect as they said they would and be done with it all. But he knew that while she believed what they were, she would be terrified to see
him. As they walked along to a safe place to shift, he spoke to his lady. Yes, they had done what they had come to do, but there were still going to be repercussions for young Mary Wayne.
“You have not told her the whole of her life. Nor have you told her she must love both her children equally. She will not, and you know this.” Eve said that it would do her no good to do so. “Yes, but you know as well as I that she will misunderstand what we have put before her.”
“Yes. And that will be good for the child too. The second child will survive, not by her mother’s hand, but because she will be left to her own devices. She will learn and survive as a strong woman. There are others there that will make sure that she gets what she needs to live and be what we need her to be. What all of us need for her to be.” Anthony knew this as well. “I have managed to help the children, not once as we had planned, but with both the magical powers they will need. Especially the second born. Her immortality is set now; they both, provided that they are born, will live for a great many years.”
“They will live then? Despite their mother’s inability to see the clear picture?” She said they would. “My love, my life, I don’t know if I can do this. To think…. I cannot lose you like this. We have so much to give. And our children, we shan’t see them grow and become the men we hope for them to be.”
“I know this too. And it grieves me so that I will never touch their skin, see them smile. We must do this, Anthony. You know this as well as I. Because if we don’t do this, then all will be lost. As will our children.” He nodded, his heart heavy with what they knew was coming. “Anthony, our children, do you think them to be great men? Men that will think of us when this all comes to pass?”
“They will love us no matter what we have done for them. This, this will ensure that our line does not end, but more importantly, that a great many lives will go on as well.” She nodded and reached for his hand. Taking hers, he put his hand over her heart and told her that he loved her.
“And I you. And will beyond our deaths. You have been the reason for my heart beating, my blood pounding in my body since I first touched you.” He wanted to stop now, take her into his arms and hold her. But he could not. Things were in motion now, things that they could see coming, and if they did not act now, everything and everyone would be lost.

Jorden The MCCade Dragons Release Day & GiveAway 8/8/16

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Jasmine Tyler was wishing she had never found those earrings in that box of junk she bought at auction. They were so pretty, and the dragons had so much detail, that she simply had to try them on. That was the biggest mistake she’d ever made. Once they were on they weren’t coming off. And those men in the black SUVs meant business. She’d hand the earrings over or they’d kill her. They’d more than likely kill her anyway even if she could get the damn things off. Now she was on the run with her young son, Gavin, and her ailing granny. A voice in her head that started when she put the earrings on was directing her to find the McCades.


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Chapter 1
Jasmine Tyler moved along the boxes, her heart not into looking for a deal. She was
exhausted, her body hurt in more places than she could think about, and she was lonely.
With all the people around her she knew that was silly, but she missed her son and her
grannie. It had been necessary to send them ahead. Ahead to what she wasn’t entirely
sure, but they were safer there than they were with her at the moment.
While I cannot see them as yet, I know they will be safe. Jasmine told the dragon that they’d
better be. I wish that you could talk to them. At least young Gavin. I think it would do you well
to hear his voice. Him as well, I would bet. The boy loves you very much.
And I love him very much as well. But you know as well as I that I can’t chance contacting
either of them. He said that he knew, but it made it no less sad for him too. I’ll be there soon,
and when I am, I can get these earrings to the right person, gather him and Grannie up, and move
on. And if you tell me again that I can’t do that, then I swear to you that I’ll cut my own ears off
and be done with the lot of you.
So the dragon didn’t bother telling her again that it didn’t work that way. Twice now
she’d told him that if he brought up again how this man and his family would keep her
and her family safe, she would never speak to him again. And the three days that she
didn’t say a single word had made her point for a little while. The dragon, or whatever
manifestation he was to her, didn’t listen well, it seemed.
She was going to have to move again soon. Making her way to this family was costing
her so much more than just being without her family. Jasmine could hardly do any
business with the way things were going, and it was more than a little difficult to trust
anyone enough to even see if they were really a buyer for her things or someone out to
get her. She shivered when she thought of what had happened to her and Gavin to get
her moving out of their home in the first place.
They’d been headed to the post office, her and him, and they were going to get some
pizza to take back to the house with them to share with her grannie. Gavin was telling
her what homework he’d done that day and she was teasing him about working on the
weekend. The car that hit them in the rear had come out of nowhere.
Being rear-ended really hadn’t been that bad. Her truck was old and made before
plastic was a big deal, and thankfully had no airbags or they might not have been able to
get moving so quickly. For the most part they’d been all right, thankfully. But before she
could get out of her truck to see what damage, if any, had been done to her truck, the
man hit her again, then again. It was then that she realized he was pushing her into
oncoming traffic. Screaming at Gavin to lay down on the floor, she floored the gas pedal
and closed her eyes.
Still to this day she had no idea how she had managed to not only get through the
traffic, which had been very heavy and fast, but also escape who had tried to kill them.
But as soon as she got home, she realized two things at once.
The dragon had been right. They were upset about the earrings and were coming for
her. And the worse part of it was, they were also going to harm her son and grandmother.
Secondly, they had to get out now. Not just out of the house, but they had to leave
everything behind and get the fuck out of dodge.
Less than two hours after they got home, her truck was loaded and coolers packed,
then they were gone. Even as they were driving through her little town, she saw three
large black SUVs pass her going in the opposite direction from the one she was
driving…the way toward her home. There were no plates on the big vehicles, and since
the windows were so dark, she had no idea who or how many people were in them.
Probably a good thing, she realized later.
She tried to tell herself that they might have been headed in any direction other than
her house. But two days after they left the only home they’d had, she’d seen on the news
that it had been burned to the ground, as had the barn that stood next to it. Jasmine
gathered them up once again and made another long trip before she felt she needed
information from the dragon in her head.
What is it about these earrings that has men trying to kill me for them? And why can’t I take
them out now that they’re in my ears? I don’t want to hear about how I’m going to this family, I
want to know why I have to. Why me?
I can do that, my lady. There are six parts to me, a set of jewelry called a demi parure. It
simply means matching set of jewelry. Few know that it was forged by a dragon and his master.
They decided, when things were too dangerous for a dragon to be roaming the earth, that it would
be safer if he, this being a part of me as a dragon, should have his spark, his magic, put within a
special piece of jewelry. But alas, the magic was too much for a single piece and was divided up
into five pieces. The sixth was made later when a lady thought the necklace was too large for anyone
to wear. Then a terrible tragedy was bestowed upon the master and the dragon, along with all of
his estate being taken away. I know not what happened to his things; only that the spark that
creates us was no longer together. Jasmine asked him how long ago this was. I have no way
of knowing that, my lady. For as a spark and only a small part of the whole, I cannot understand
the passing of time until I have been awakened. But the ring, it has been awakened and thus, myself
as well. And now it is held in trust by Emma…I have told you about her. The rest, not including
yours, was spread out all over the world at one time, but now are close, but since the other pieces
haven’t been awakened yet, I know not where. Her next question to him was, why her. I know
not, my lady. Until you touched the jewelry that has turned out to be my wings, I knew nothing
of the holder.
So, you want me to believe that there is this set of jewelry out there that a bunch of women
will touch and bring to life…or I guess, bring you to life. Then if that doesn’t sound creepy enough,
these women have to make their way to this family of men, dragon men, and give it over to them
and become their slave of sorts. And on top of that, they’re stuck with this stuff forever, even if
they want no part of this plot. I’m sorry, but this is about as farfetched as it gets. Not to mention
sort of like slave trade for me to believe in. He asked her how she was hearing him if he was
just a manifestation. I don’t know. A tumor? Could be. I’ve been under a lot of stress lately.
You have, and I’m sorry to say that it isn’t over as yet. When those men went to your home
and destroyed everything that you had, they did a search and found enough information to find
you and your family. She asked him what sort of information. Pictures of you and your family.
What Emma says is DNA on objects left behind. They can and will use every item in their
possession to find you.
And then what? What is it they think they’re going to do to me? He didn’t answer her. Is
my son in danger? My grannie?
Yes. You all are until you can get to the McCade family. And even then, they will not stop
until they either get what they desire or they are caught by the authorities. I am sorry, my lady.
She wanted to cry. All she’d done was find a pretty pair of earrings that she wished she’d
never seen now. It would not have mattered when you saw them, my lady; somehow they would
have come to you. You are the one that needs to be a part of the dragon with one of the McCade
men.
I don’t want to be a part of any man. Don’t you see? I’ve lost enough shit in my life because
of a man. Not all of it was his fault, but he lied to me. Over and over, and there is no reason to
think that this man won’t too. He’ll take and take until I have nothing. I am nothing. The dragon
wisely said nothing. I know; I’ll mail them to them.
You cannot remove them now that you wear them. Stomping her foot, she paced in front
of the pretty little hotel where she’d stopped to rest for the night. These terrible men, they
will not stop until they have what they want. You must understand this.
No, I don’t have to understand anything. She turned when she heard Gavin call out to
her. “I’m sorry, baby. What is it? Everything all right?”
“Yes. Why are you talking to yourself? Or it is that dragon again? Tell him that we’re
doing the best we can and to cut you some slack.” She hugged him to her and felt tears
fill her eyes. “We’re going to be all right, aren’t we, Mom? As soon as we get to this house,
we’re going to be just fine, right?”
“I hope so, Gavin, I really do.”
Then five days later, nearly two weeks ago, she’d used every penny she had and put
them both, her grandma and son, on a plane for Ohio. It wasn’t safe for them to travel
together any longer.
She was just sorting through a box when she felt something, a kind of nervous panic,
which had her snatching her hand back from the items in the box and looking around.
Christ, would she ever feel safe again, she asked herself? Then the dragon spoke to her,
his voice calm yet slightly tight sounding.
The man near the food truck. Do you see him? Jasmine looked around, trying her best to
look as if she were checking out the rest of the items. He feels wrong.
As casually as she could, Jasmine made her way to where she could get a better look
at the man. She could see him now; he stood out like a man in a tux among a room of
cowboys. At the moment he was trying to figure out how to eat a hotdog without wearing
most of it. Backing into the trees and away from the man, she watched him unobserved
for several minutes. There wasn’t anything odd about him, not that she could say, “Hey,
that’s it,” but she still knew there was something. She nearly told the dragon that he was
looking for things that weren’t there when the man shifted on his feet and she saw the
gun.
The need to flee made her feel like she was being watched. Looking around, trying
to decide what to do now, she wanted to curl into a tight ball and just cry. She had no car,
nothing to protect herself with, and not a great deal of money either. She was, in a word,
fucked.
I can’t leave yet. Can I?
The dragon told her that she could not. Then he pointed out the man across the table
from the auctioneer. He wasn’t watching the items but looking around, as if he were
searching the people and not what to buy next. Jasmine went deeper into the woods and
then stood behind a tree. When the two men came together, they scanned the area twice
before splitting up and moving around. She knew they were looking for her.
What do I do now? He told her not to move, not to run. I can’t let them get to me. If they
do, you said that they’d kill me for these earrings. And as much as I hate them right now, I need
to get to my son, damn it.
Do not move, my lady. They are looking for a young boy to be with you. They are thinking
that you’d not leave him or your grandmother alone while they are out there. They know not that
you have sent them both ahead. She let out a long breath and tried to think about anything
but wanting to run. If you do, then all is lost. Just wait for me to tell you that you can go. But to
the bus stop, not to the hotel.
She knew as surely as she was standing there listening to a dragon talk to her in her
head that they’d already been to her hotel room and had figured out where she was. The
newspaper. She’d gotten one and had circled the auction for today not far from where
she’d been staying. It wasn’t as if she had any money to spend—she didn’t—but Jasmine
was bored and needed to do something that didn’t involve her thinking about how much
she missed her son. So walking to the place that was stated in the ad, she had been there
for only a few minutes when she realized it wasn’t as fun as it used to be.
He is going to go by you in a few moments, and when he does, follow him, but not closely. I
will tell you when to move to the bus stop. She wanted to tell him to fuck off, there wasn’t
any way she was going to follow that man, but the dragon spoke again before she could.
He will not expect you to be behind him. Nor will his partner. You must trust me on this. I will
not allow you to be harmed.
As soon as she was given the signal to move, Jasmine moved out from behind the
tree and right behind the man. She was close enough that she could see the tat on the
back of his neck that looked like some sort of Japanese symbol; or Chinese, she wasn’t
sure. There was also one that peeked out the bottom of his sleeve. When he pulled the
shirt up enough, she nearly stopped walking. Dragon told her to keep moving.
I’ve seen that before. He told her to turn then, and to go to the bus stop. When she did,
the bus pulled up just as the man turned to go back to where she’d been. Sitting down,
she turned on her seat and watched as both men moved around the yard again. He had a
dragon tat on his arm. I’ve seen that before. The man that tried to shoot us the day that Gavin got
hurt and I sent them away. He had one just like it.
They are all a part of a group of men out to harm you and all that help you. They have no wish
to bring me to life, but to profit from controlling me. It is them that I am trying to save you from.
Jasmine asked the dragon who they were, what the writing meant. It’s Chinese, as you have
guessed. It says Sǐwáng de suǒyǒu lóng. Its translation is, death to all dragons. I have not seen
that for many years. More than you can imagine. It, like a great many things, comes and goes as
the need arises. Today they need it to feel important. Who knows what it will be used for in the
future?
Her mind went in a single straight line direction. A group of men. Not a man, but a
group. And they didn’t just want her dead for the earrings, but they wanted to control
the dragon himself. That meant that the McCades, the very people that she was headed
to, were in danger as well. And her son and grannie would be caught up in it because she
had blindly sent them there. Christ, she wanted to crawl into a hole and cry. To just bawl
her eyes out. But now she had to make her way to Ohio faster, to see to her family. And
the only way to do that was go get some money to get herself a car. She told the dragon
what she needed and why.
I will help you. She nodded. He’d suggested that before, him helping her, but she’d
told him that she would never cheat, steal, or lie to get what she needed. She’d had that
done to her more than enough. You will see; I’ll keep you as safe as I can.
And my family? How will you protect them? He told her that until they connected with
the McCades he had no way of knowing about her son and grandmother. And they won’t
until I get there. This is really fucked up; you know that, don’t you?
He said nothing, which was good…she wasn’t ready for him to tell her anything but
that they were going to make it. How, she hadn’t any idea, but she so wanted to hear him
say that to her. And as surely as she was sitting there, she knew that there was a lot more
shit to deal with before she got to her son.
~~~
Jorden put the last of his paints in the box and set it on the floor. When he looked up,
his entire being froze. The kid, a little boy, was standing there so still that he looked like
one of his plaster casts. Jorden started forward to find out what he wanted when the kid
lifted a gun and pointed it, steadily no less, right at him. Jorden stopped.
“I’m not going to hurt you.” The kid said nothing. There were lines of exhaustion
under his eyes, and his face looked puffy, as if he’d been crying recently. “If you’re here
to get some money or drugs, I’m afraid that I’m not going to be able to help you. I have
neither here. The doctor isn’t in either.”
“It says there is a doctor here. There’s a name downstairs on the door. It’s the only
reason I’m here. To get a doctor to come with me. It says McCade. Where is he?” Jorden
tried to think where Kenton was when the little boy spoke again. “It doesn’t smell like a
doctor’s office up here either. More like Mrs. Witt’s art class. Is he a physician or some
other sort of doctor?”
“No, he’s a physician. A general practitioner, as a matter of fact. And this is where I
work, the reason for the smell. I’m an artist. Well, people tell me I am, and pretty good at
it, I guess.” He took a step forward and the kid told him to stop. “Do you need a doctor?
I can call him here if you need him. Kenton, he’s the doctor, he’s off today with his wife
doing…. Actually, I have no idea where he is. But if he’s not here, then he’s at his home.”
“I don’t know what else to do. I’ve been…I got up and she wouldn’t wake up. So I
thought that I could find a doctor. But I know that she’s not going to be all right. My
grannie, I believe she’s died.” Jorden nodded and sat down on the floor. He wanted to
give the kid the impression that he was relaxed when he was anything but. “I need
someone to come and look to make sure that I didn’t do something wrong. We’re on the
run, my grannie and I.”
“What might you have done to her?” He just shrugged. Jorden decided to ignore the
part where they were on the run for now. “I see. So you think you killed her then?”
“No. I didn’t kill her. She and I have been…. Last night she told me she was tired. She
has been a lot lately. Powerfully tired she told me, and wanted to turn in early. So I was
really quiet and got my shower and jammies on and played on my reader before I went
to bed as well. When she didn’t get up before I did, I checked on her and her face and
neck were cold. I think she might have died in her sleep last night or sometime.” The little
boy scrubbed at his face and Jorden felt badly for him. “I can’t get in touch with my mom
either. I’m all alone, so I thought a doctor could tell me for sure.”
“Where is she…your grannie, I mean?” The kid said nothing but did lower the gun.
“I’m going to get my cell phone out and call Kenton. And when he gets here, we’ll go to
where she is and we call in the police to—” The gun came up again, this time a little less
steady. For some reason that scared Jorden more than the steady handling of the gun had.
“No, you can’t do that. If you call the police, I’m as good as dead as I think she is.”
Jorden felt his dragon move along his skin. Fear and sadness made him want to go to the
young kid and hold him. “Mom, she sent us ahead of her so that we’d be safe. And we’ve
been doing everything we was told. But Grannie was sick before. It was why we went to
stay with her.”
Jorden pulled out his phone and pressed the button to call his brother. The kid never
moved, just stood there with the 9 mm pointed at him like he would most assuredly use
it if he fucked up. When Kenton answered his cell laughing, Jorden almost wanted to
hang up and call someone that wasn’t having as good a day as Kenton seemed to be
having.
“Did you decide that you needed some help moving out anyway? I told you that it
was—”
Jorden cut his brother off. “I’ve got a visitor.”
Kenton must have noticed something in his voice and asked him through their link
who it was. “I have to speak to you this way. He has a gun pointed at me, and I don’t
want to be shot if it’s all the same to you.”
“I’m on my way.” Jorden told him to just come alone. No police. “I’m not going to
fucking come into a situation without some sort of back-up. You want me to tell Mom
that you got us both hurt? You know how well that might go over.”
“Kenton, you’re going to have to trust me on this and come here alone. I’m talking to
him now. I would say that he’s about ten or so years old.” The kid told him how old he
was. “He’s ten. Just last week as a matter of fact. He came here looking for a doctor. A
doctor named McCade. He said his grandma didn’t wake this morning. And that he has
been sent here ahead of his mom so that they’d be safe. He said that he’s all alone in this
world.”
Kenton put together a sting of curse words that made him smile. “Dragon said to ask
him if he is Gavin. If his mom is Jasmine.” Jorden asked and Gavin said that was right.
“She’s another part. The wings. Dragon said that she’s fine, but he had no way of keeping
in contact with the boy and his mom until one or both of them found us. I’m assuming
that’s why he doesn’t want the police or the media involved. His mom is protecting him
even now.”
“Christ.” Gavin lifted the gun again after having just put it at his side. Jorden had a
feeling that he was making him nervous. “Come here first and bring Mom. I have no idea
why, but I think he could use her. I know that I could right now.”
“I’m on my way. I’ve contacted Dalton as well. He’s not in uniform right now, so that
might not be so bad. Can you ask Gavin if he is hurt?” Again he asked the boy, who just
stared at him. “Jorden, did he tell you where his grandma is? Or where his mom might
be?”
“No. He said that his mom sent them ahead and that his grandma didn’t wake up.”
Jorden reached out to Kenton on their link. I think he’s hurting, but not physically. Also, he
looks exhausted, and I can hear his belly growling from here. If he’s been on the run since Dragon
told you that she was coming, then they’ve been on the run for over a month.
Poor kid. Christ, to try and stay safe like this and to have your grandmother die would be
horrific. The kid has guts; I’ll give him that. Jorden agreed, but told him he still had a gun
pointed at him. It’ll be fine, Jorden. I’m at the door now. Can you warn him that I’m here?
Jorden said that he would and the elevator motor kicked on, telling him that Kenton
must have been right in the lift when he told him. Jorden watched as Gavin lifted the gun
again and pointed it at him. It wasn’t nearly as steady, and when he lowered it once again,
Jorden realized how heavy it must have been for this kid.
“My brother. He’s coming up with my mom.” Gavin said nothing, but swayed just a
little. “We won’t hurt you, Gavin. We will protect you.”
“The dragon, he told my mom that she needed to go to the McCade family and give
them the earrings. He said that we’d be safe here. I’m not saying you had anything to do
with my grannie dying, but I don’t really feel very safe right now.” Jorden nodded and
watched his brother and mom come out of the elevator as Gavin continued. “He warned
us the night that these men showed up at the hotel we were in. I was going to the
bathroom when the door just flew open and there they were. One of them cut me with a
knife when Mom said she couldn’t give him whatever jewelry that she’d stolen from
them. My mom doesn’t steal. But they weren’t taking no for an answer. So she hit the big
one with a bat, then she shot the second guy. We got out of there right away.”
“Good for her. But men like this one, they think that if they want something that it
should be theirs. My name is Aisha McCade, by the way. And this is my son, Kenton.
You’ve met Jorden.” Gavin said nothing. “If you would put the gun down, I’d feel so
much better.”
“I can’t put it down, Mrs. McCade. My mom told me that this thing might be the only
thing between her seeing me again alive or in the morgue. I don’t want her to come see
me there. I’ve had a really hard time what with missing her, and I’d really hate to
disappoint her by getting my butt shot up.” Mom told Gavin of course he didn’t want to
disappoint her. “My grannie, I think she died. If it gets out that she is gone and her name,
then they’ll know that I’m here.”
“Do you know who they are? The men that your mom is being chased by? Do you
know them? Have you seen them lately?” Jorden wasn’t sure who could be coming now,
but they’d been warned that someone would. And if Gavin had any information they
could use, it might help them. “Have you seen them since you and your mom separated?”
“No. And I can’t call her either to let her know what’s happened. The dragon, he said
that it would be too dangerous. Mom said that determined people could track a fly fart if
they thought it would give them what they wanted.” Gavin flushed brightly. “I’m sorry.
I’m really tired and hungry. Do you think you can tell me if my grannie is really gone? I
need to figure out what I have to do next. Like where to live, and find something to eat.”
“Yes, I can go now. But for as much as I’d like for you to stay here, I think it would
be better if you came along with me. Just in case the owner might question why I’m
there.” Gavin sat down, his poor little body just giving up. When Kenton went to him to
see if he was all right, Jorden noticed that he didn’t bother trying to take his weapon. He
wasn’t sure if that was smart or not, but it wasn’t pointed at any of them now, and Jorden
thought he could live with that.
The hotel was within walking distance of his building. Kenton went in first with
Gavin. Jorden stayed outside, just waiting while his mom went to get Gavin something
to eat. He wasn’t sure what to say to the kid, not having a lot of experience with them,
but when Kenton came out of the room shaking his head, Gavin simply crumbled. Jorden
was glad to have been closest to him to gather him in his arms while he dealt with his
grief.
Jorden held him while he sobbed. He kept saying he was all alone now and that he
wanted his mom. Jorden didn’t blame him…right now he wanted his own. But when she
showed up with a burger, fries, and a cola, Gavin said he wasn’t hungry.
“You have to eat, kid. You want to get sick and end up somewhere you don’t want
to be? Someplace that you can’t control? Like a hospital or something?” Gavin just looked
at him—glared was more like it—and Jorden was impressed. Then Gavin told him he
was already where he didn’t want to be. “Yeah, okay, I’ll give you that one. But eat and
we’ll get this figured out. My brother Dalton is coming by. He wants to talk to you too.”
“How many brothers do you have?” Jorden told him five. “Sheesh. I bet they’re all
as big as you and Dr. McCade are too. I guess if the bad guys are coming, it would be best
if you weren’t puny little guys like me.”
“Yes, we’re all pretty big men.” Jorden snagged a fry and ate it as he continued.
“Dalton is a cop, so don’t freak out on him if he starts asking you cop questions. To be
honest, I’m not sure that Dalton knows any other way to ask questions. Anyway. As you
know, Kenton is a doctor. Private practice now. I paint. Grady fancies himself some sort
of computer wizard, which really he is, but he works for this asshole that sort of takes
advantage of him. Lewis, the baby, is a chef…a pretty good one, I guess, since he’s got all
these awards for his cooking. He lived with me until a little while ago, so I’m thinking
he’ll be finding him a place to put his hat. And Vance is…. Well, Vance is Vance. He has
a job that pays well, but I’m not entirely sure what it is he does any more. He was in the
service until recently, and has been known to disappear from time to time.”
Jorden told himself he wasn’t babbling but biding his time until Gavin finished his
meal. Besides, he was going to be staying with them now, so he needed to have all the
scoops on all of them.
By the time Kenton had made arrangements to have the body removed, Jorden and
Gavin had moved back from the place and into the diner across the street. He hadn’t
wanted to leave, but Kenton explained to him that they were going to Jane Doe his
grandma so that her name would never come out, and he had to keep a low profile. And
if the press showed up, which was highly likely, they didn’t want his picture taken.
In the end, Jorden took him to his house. By the time they were pulling up in front,
not only had Gavin fallen asleep, but Jorden had spoken to Kenton and Mom twice about
him. Jorden was glad now that he’d hired himself a staff. The house was fucking huge
for a single man, but the kid was going to need someone to cook and clean up after him.
Jorden hadn’t the slightest idea what to do with a ten-year-old, but he liked him and
figured they could work something out.

Aedan Harrison Ambush Series book three Release Day& Giveaway 7/25/16

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Nikki Neal was damn good at her job. As an undercover cop, she had just about enough information to put the local crime boss away, but she needed more to make it stick. But when someone blew her cover, Nikki found herself on the wrong end of several guns. Aedan Harrison was on the fast track to winning the Governor’s seat for the state of Ohio. He had his whole life, or at least his immediate future, planned out. What he didn’t need was a mate he hadn’t made plans for throwing a monkey wrench into the mix. The last thing Nikki needed was an overbearing jackass ordering her about, and telling her how much he didn’t need her in his life right now. Well, she didn’t need him either. She had work to do and needed to get herself and her grandda to safety. It didn’t take long for Aedan’s family to convince him in the error of his ways, and when he saw what he’d done he felt like an ass. All he wanted to do was make it right, but could he grovel enough for her to accept him?
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Chapter 1
Aedan smiled when he saw all the flyers that had his name on them being put into yards. Aedan Harrison for Governor. Who would have thought that only a short three weeks ago he’d been working for his brother’s firm, and now he was not just running for governor, but he was also having a grand time. He saw his dad coming out of his political offices and had to smile when he showed him the new signage.
“I had to give them a little grief ‘bout the picture. You look like a little boy in them, and I thought about having them paint a mustache on you or something; but your mom, she liked them so we went with it.” He nodded at his dad, proud as he could be about what was going on, but also a little overwhelmed. “All you boys really take good pictures. It’s in your blood. I think it’s a trait that I passed down to you, what do you think?”
Four days ago there had been an ad on the television about Aedan running in the upcoming election. He was getting a late start, he knew that, but he was getting a lot of support too. The president had been in the commercial, saying that Aedan was a man of men and that he would do the best job possible for the state. Aedan had sat there for nearly an hour after it had aired just thinking about how fast this was all going down. Then he’d gotten up, done a little dance, and gone to run with his brother Darcy, who had been staying with him for a few weeks. He didn’t mention anything about seeing the ad until they were having beers and pizza at his house later. Then after polishing off two large with every kind of meat on them, they’d talked.
“You think that when the time comes, you’ll be sitting in the big house?” Aedan said nothing. Not that he hadn’t been having the same thoughts, but he was terrified to say the words out loud. Even to his brothers. Darcy laughed as he continued. “You have a sappy look on your face. The same one you get when you’ve figured out what you’re getting for Christmas from Mom and Dad. Just so you know, you’re going to have to be better at the poker look if you’re having thoughts that big.”
“I just want to get this election under my belt, then I can go from there.” Darcy only nodded, but he did have a smile that said a lot. “How are things going with you and the new building? I’m thinking that in no time you’re going to have your own mailbox out front. Not that I’m in any hurry for you to leave here. I love hanging out with you.”
“Storm is having it made up as we speak, believe it or not. She said to consider it a building warming gift. Did I tell you that she’s going to help me with finding furniture for the building? I asked for things that would blend well with the old building, and she had this amazing desk delivered yesterday. I’m going to love being in my own place but still working for the family. Christ, she really does know people who know people.”
They both laughed, and Darcy asked about his first duty in office when he won.
“I’m thinking we need more jobs, don’t you? But as for Storm, she really does know about everyone. And she’s being very pushy about things beyond the governorship. I’m not thinking along those lines yet. I have done some research on my opponent. He’s not very…well, I was going to say very trustworthy, but I think he’s underhanded and a jackass as well.” Darcy said nothing. “You know him?”
“I do, sort of. And this is between the two of us, but if you want to find some true dirt about him, you should look into the people who used to work for him. Both professionally as well as at his home. I understand that they’re the same, they both work for him, but I’m talking about his different staffers.” Aedan wasn’t sure that he wanted to sling mud, and Darcy handed him a file. “I got this in my inbox at work today. It’s a questionnaire. I’m pretty sure that as your brother I wasn’t meant to get it, but there are some pretty in-depth questions there.”
He told his brother that he’d look into the people but didn’t pick up the file just yet. He wasn’t even sure that he wanted to. Darcy took the decision out of his hands after it sat there for several more minutes, and picked up the paperwork and flipped through it to the back. Aedan wasn’t sure what he was doing until he handed it to him. Aedan read the first three questions, then looked at Darcy.
“They asked you what you thought my sexual preferences were?” Darcy nodded. “What the hell does that have to do with anything? I mean, how the hell does he get by with asking those sort of personal questions?”
“Don’t know, but there are a lot more in there. Read on. At one point they ask me if I thought you were going to have affairs while in the seat. I’m thinking that if they get one person to answer yes to that, you’re going to be labeled as a pervert as well as some sort of sexual deviant. Whoever sent this out is fishing, and they don’t care what sort of catch they get. I’m having someone look into it.” Aedan laughed. “No, not Storm. If she gets wind of this there will be hell to pay.”
“Yeah, she’s a little overprotective when it comes to us. But this shit, it’s not the way I want to do things, Darcy. You know me. I’d never want to stoop this low.” He read a few more questions until he got to the last one. “It asks if there are any things that the reader can think of that might be helpful to the people of this town. There’s a number here they can call.”
“Yep. And I called.” Darcy leaned back in the couch that had only been delivered that morning. “They’re asking more questions too. Like how long have you been a drug addict. They’re not asking if you were, but how long you’ve been using. And when was the last time I’d shot up with you, and where that might have been. I assured the person that I’d never even seen you take an aspirin and they laughed. This guy told me that he had enough people calling in to talk to them that they knew that wasn’t true. Whoever is working to smear you, they’re not playing very fairly. Like I said, any of this gets out, lies or not, it’s not going to go well for you or the family. Storm will be the least of their problems when Mom and Dad find out.”
“No shit.” He leaned back as well. “I wonder who it is. I mean, with this kind of work, someone is really out to make me look bad. I’m sure if I asked Ellison he’d say something like ‘well, I don’t know’ in his best you’re a moron voice. Any ideas who I might have to have murdered?”
“Nope. As I said, I’m having someone look. Mason, too, is having a little fun with this. He said to tell you when it hits his inbox, he’s going to answer all the questions in his own language and hopes someone there gets a kick out of it. He’s been in and out of the offices for a couple of days now; I’ve not really found out why, but it’s fun having
him around. Mason said that he’s helping out while Riordan is out of town.” Aedan asked when he’d be back. “Don’t know. Storm has been out of the country for a few days too. But I think she’s coming back tomorrow. The president has them doing something overseas, and I think they’re going to make a little vacation of it too.”
He’d spoken to Darcy, and now it was two days past when they were to have returned home and neither Storm nor Riordan was back yet. Something had come up, they’d been told. He’d never found out what it was, but he knew that it was like them to rest up after they were done working. Even Dad had been saying how he wished he’d had such perks. Then he and Mom had gone to wherever it was to help out.
Aedan was getting things put away in the kitchen when he heard someone in the drive. The house had a very long drive, lined with trees and a big fucking gate at the end, so he knew that whoever was here had made an effort in coming to see him. Going out to the back deck that wrapped around the entire house, he watched. While the car was in front of the garage, he stood there while whoever it was decided to either get out or drive away. The elderly man that finally got out of the car was no one he knew.
He stood with the car door opened and his hands on the door. Both of them. He looked more like he was hanging on rather than just taking in the view. Aedan decided that tomorrow he was going to have someone manning the gate house as Storm had told him to do weeks ago.
“Can I help you?” The man looked around like he was trying to decide if they were alone or not. Just as he was ready to ask again, another car pulled in the drive and he was relieved to see it was Darcy. Neither man spoke, but his brother did come up on the deck with him. “Perhaps you’re at the wrong address.”
“No, I’m where I’m to be. I’m here to meet someone else. It’s important that nobody knows where I am, you see, and I was told that I’d be okay here for a little while.” Aedan nodded. “You’re the boy, the one running for governor. I saw the signs in people’s yards. Congratulations on that. But you need to get yourself someone to man that gate down there. Doesn’t do you squat if anyone can come in here uninvited.”
“I was just thinking the same thing when you pulled up. Who are you?” The man looked worn out. Depressed, and like he wanted to curl into a ball and simply give up. Aedan had no idea where those thoughts had come from, but he had a feeling that they were all true. Making his way off the deck, Darcy was with him but he stayed back, like he was going to be ready should anything happen. When Aedan was nearly to the man he smelled it…blood. Old and fresh. “Are you hurt?”
“Yes. I got shot up a couple of days ago. I thought for sure that I was a goner, but I managed to get myself free. I’ve been on the run since, not able to stop the hole in me other than to press me a towel or two on it. Hurts like someone has been doing a jig on my insides. You’re not human.” Aedan shook his head and looked the man over. “I can manage to move in a bit, but I have to rest up if you’re planning to kick me to the curb.”
“All right, I won’t kick you anywhere so long as you don’t give me a reason to. Besides, I don’t think you’d make it if I did. I can help you, if you’d allow it.” He just shook his head and continued to hold onto the door that he was near. “Who are you meeting? Maybe I can call them for you.”
“It’s me, Aedan.” He looked at Mason as he made his way to the elderly man. “He’s a stubborn old coot, but I owe someone to keep him safe. Otherwise I would have left his sorry ass on the side of the road.” The older man laughed and then coughed hard enough to make Aedan think he was in a great deal more pain than he was letting on.
Aedan had no idea why he thought that Mason was lying about his feelings toward the stranger. But Mason picked him up in his arms and asked Aedan if he could use his house. Before he could figure out why the man was here or who he was, Mason had taken him to one of the spare bedrooms on the second floor and laid the now unconscious man on the bed.
“I’ll call Ennis.”
Darcy left the room when it was apparent that the man was really hurt. Mason pulled up his shirt and they both looked at the wounds. He had indeed been shot; twice, as a matter of fact. And both wounds were seeping enough to make Aedan realize that he might have used more than a couple of towels to try and stop the bleeding.
“His name is Neal. Paddy Neal. He’s an old friend of a friend that…Browning asked me to bring him here as they’re not home yet. I would have taken him to my place, but it’s too out in the open as yet. He needs a place to hide out until I can get him somewhere safe.” Aedan asked him why here. “Because, my dear friend, your house is built like a fortress and I have been here before, so had you not been home, I could have entered and put him up. It really is important that he is safe.”
“I don’t understand why he isn’t in a hospital, or at the very least a clinic somewhere.” Mason wasn’t one to explain himself, and this time was no different. As they both waited on Ennis to arrive with his black bag, they stripped Paddy’s clothing off. Mason told Aedan what he knew…or in this case, what he wanted Aedan to know.
“Just over a week ago there was a shooting. Nothing you would have heard about here, but an undercover agent was shot several times in the chest at close range. She was about the best there was, but the bad guys didn’t care for her. This is her grandda. Paddy was on the phone with her when she was taken out and presumed killed. She wasn’t, but not for lack of them trying. Just as they were ready to put one in her head, I arrived and took her away to someplace else.” Aedan felt like he was in one of those carnival rides that spun you about so quickly that you couldn’t figure out up or down. “She’s critical, in grave condition actually, but she is going to pull through. But as far as the world is concerned, the world that she works in, she’s dead. And we need to keep it that way for a little while longer. I also have her phone.”
“Her phone.” Mason nodded as he sat down on the other chair in the room. Aedan had already taken the other. “And this is making sense to me how? In the event you didn’t notice, this is not a hospital. I have no staff here that can help out, and I’m pretty sure that since you said you’d been here before, you know that this house isn’t equipped to have guests just yet. The only reason I have this room is because I got a great deal on this set at an auction.”
“This house is very old, and at one time, many decades even before your father was a glint in anyone’s eye, this house was owned by a very dear and close friend of mine. We had many…well, let’s just say that if these walls could talk, you’d be out of here in a
minute.” This wasn’t funny and Aedan said that to him. “No, it’s not. But as I was saying, when Nikki was shot and presumably killed, they went after her grandda when her body and the phone that she used came up missing. I took her someplace safe, as I said, to make sure she would get the care that she needed. Also, I have taken care that the phone isn’t found. She has some pretty determined enemies because of what she’s found out about one of the drug dealers in her city. And trust me when I tell you, his little Nikki is one hell of an investigator.”
“Okay, let me get this straight. This undercover agent was murdered but not. Her grandda was shot to hell and you brought him here. And now, for whatever reason, you think he needs to stay here while he either recuperates or dies, and I’m supposed to keep quiet about it.” Mason grinned and nodded. “You do know that I’m running for governor, right? And this is just the kind of shit that my opponent is looking for to bury me in, correct?”
“You will be fine, young Aedan. And I’d not worry about the questionnaires either. I’ve taken care that none of those questions ever get out in the public.” Aedan asked Mason how he knew that. “Let’s just say that I know more people than Browning does, and mine are a bit more ruthless than she is. And as for Paddy being here, it’s because the president and Browning asked me to bring him here for you to keep safe. They have a great deal more confidence in you than you appear to have in yourself.”
That wasn’t quite true, but Aedan was nervous about having a bleeding stranger in his house. He knew that his family would cover for him in the event someone found out. And if the shit hit the fan, like Mason was suggesting, then they’d be there for him as well.
When Ennis came in a few minutes later, Darcy asked to speak to Aedan. As soon as they entered the hallway, leaving Mason and his other brother to deal with Paddy, Darcy started pacing the long hall. Darcy was a thinker, one who did not blurt out whatever was on his mind until he was sure of his facts.
“I think this is my fault.” Aedan asked him how when Mason had told the man to come here. “I helped him. In a way. You know how I love the news? And especially ones that have to do with syndicates and shit like that? Well, Mason knew as well.”
“Go on.” His brother really did have a fixation on things in the news. He had an app on his computer both here and at home that would tell him every major thing going down. Even his phone and car were rigged up with it. “If you tell me that you called Mason when this went down, I’m going to brain you.”
“I didn’t. Mason called me. About a week before. He said that he had an idea that something was going to go down with a friend that was working undercover. And that he wanted me to keep an ear out for something, anything, that might have to do with this certain city…Chicago. So when the call came in that an officer was down, I contacted him right away and told him what I knew. I think he went to get him or something.” He told him it was apparently a woman. “Okay, that makes sense. He probably had some affair with her and now he’s protecting her or something. Whatever it is, I think this man had something to do with it. Because a couple of hours later, I hear the name again, this time
they say it’s at a residence and shots are being fired. I let Mason know and now the man shows up here. What do you suppose this is about?”
“I don’t know. He just told me that the president and Storm told him to bring the undercover person’s grandda here.” Darcy just nodded, but looked as confused as Aedan felt. “I’m guessing they have something to do with him then. All I know is that I have a wounded man in my house that I know nothing about, as well as some woman out there that may or may not be dead. And I’m to keep quiet about it so that they’ll be safe. I have no problem with that, but I wish I had more information.”
The door opened behind them and Mason stood there. He looked injured, and that was when Aedan realized it was daylight and he was out in the sunlight. When he leaned back against the wall, seemingly exhausted, he and Darcy helped him to the lower levels and away from most of the sunlight. He took a seat but refused their offer of blood.
“She is not my lover, though once I had a look at the little morsel, I had thoughts of changing her and taking her to my bed. But alas, I cannot. She is off limits to me.” Aedan asked why. “She is the niece and goddaughter of the president. The man presently in your bedroom is his uncle. They’re keeping their identities quiet because of what they do and did for a living.”
Aedan nodded then shook his head. Goddaughter and uncle of the president? What else would he find out, that they were also aliens from another planet? Shaking his head to try and clear some of it up only made it worse. He was beginning to have a headache right between his eyes. And he never got headaches.
“Why here? Why not in some other house, closer to him? Or for that matter, why not in a hospital? And what do you mean, did and do? This is like being on a loop de loop ride and you can’t get off; you know that, don’t you?” Mason said nothing but leaned back on the couch. Aedan started to demand answers, but he sat down too and thought about things. “It’s because of this woman being undercover, isn’t it? Something about that is why they have to be protected. She knows something or has…. The phone…you mentioned the phone. You’re thinking that whatever is on it might be something someone would need to bring them in. And those people, the ones on the phone, need to think them dead. For now, like you said, they need to be safe to heal and to be able to bring this to light later. And if the people after them knew differently, then shit would hit the fan.”
“I would say that you’re onto it, at least I think. As I said before, I don’t know a great many of the details. Other than I was asked by Browning to keep an eye out for her. It was most difficult since this cop mostly worked during the daylight hours. But I knew that young Darcy here had an ear for this, so I asked him to have a listen for me.” Aedan looked at his brother then back at Mason. “I only had to give him a name and the city. The rest, it was up to him. He might well have saved her life by being diligent in this. And most assuredly her grandfather. I’m sorry to say that I was too weak to bring him to you quickly. Taking Nikki away the way that I did drained me badly. Driving here was the only way he could have made it. Thankfully he had taken precautions, and had another car with money and clothing it in for them both.”
“And this man, he is involved how? I mean, other than being her grandfather, how is it he has been shot? Being in the wrong place at the wrong time?” Mason said he only knew a few details. “Do I need to know them? Or better yet, do I want to know them?”
“I would say not.” Mason stood up. “There will be staff coming here to care for him and your household. Not from me but the president. He doesn’t want you to have to worry about things, so he has asked a butler to come in and take care of things here should you want. He said to call it a thank you gift. I know Basford; he and his wife are good people.”
“All right, but to be honest, I’m not sure what I need at this point. I’ve only been here for a few months. I mean, Howard is a good friend of the family, but I don’t really need someone to take over my house.” Mason said he figured he’d say that. “How do I give him updates on his uncle?”
“That won’t be necessary at this point. He said that he will contact you when the time is right. But for now, it is safer for his uncle to not be associated with him. Not because he’s done anything wrong, nothing like that, but he should like to keep him safe. And he knows he will be here.” Aedan had a thought, not a good one. Mason laughed. “You have many things running through that head of yours, my friend. I would suggest that you not read anything into this other than a good friend needed your help. You know as well as I that Howard is a good man. If he had not been Browning would have ended him long ago.”
Aedan was still sitting on his couch when someone came into the room with him. He only stared at the man, not having any idea if he should have been frightened, taken cover, or put out his hand in friendship. His head was going in so many directions he wasn’t sure which way was up.
“My name is Basford, my lord. You were told that I was coming?” He nodded. “Mason sent us to help out around the house. Cook and clean for you should you need it, and hire a staff should you want that as well. I’m to understand from him that you have a large household and may need more than just me in residence.”
“To be honest with you Basford, I have no idea what I need.” The man only nodded. “Do you know what’s going on here, with the man upstairs then?”
“I do. I have been informed that should he need something more than he has at the moment, I’m to make a few calls.” More than Aedan knew, and he said as much. “Mason, he said that you were slightly overwhelmed and that you may need a little guidance until you are settled.”
“That might not ever happen.” Basford nodded. “I’d really like to have some breakfast, then while I’m eating, perhaps you and I can figure out what I do with a butler and cook. While I know the duties of both, I’m not sure how to go about getting things done. Does that make sense?”
“It does. I have met the new cook at your parents’ house, as well as their butler there. Mr. Shaw has been a good friend of mine for many years.” That was helpful. Shaw had been working for his family for decades. “Shall we go to the kitchen and see where we stand there? My wife, she’s here as well and has asked to do a bit of cooking for you.
She’s not up to the standards of the young new Mrs. Harrison, but she said she can fill your belly.”
He was talking about Andi, Mac’s wife. Nodding once, he got up to follow the man. Whatever was going on right now, he thought it best if he just played along. For now, anyway.
As they entered the kitchen, he thought again about why the president would have sent the man here. Aedan wondered if he thought that just because he had endorsed him for the governorship that he could take advantage of him. Not that it was a huge hardship having Paddy in his home, but it was odd that the man had been shot and needed to hide out. Then there was the undercover cop thing too. Why was she presumed to be dead? And who wanted her that way? As he sat down to wait for his breakfast, a notebook and pen was set before him. He looked up at the woman, who also handed him a large glass of orange juice.
“To make notes with. Winnie said that you were going to figure things out.” He asked her who Winnie was. “My husband. His name is Winfred, but I call him Winnie. My name is Rose, Rose Basford. Would you like for me to call him Basford as well?”
“No. I like Winnie too. It sounds less…I don’t know. Less stiff. I’m new to this having a staff thing.” She smiled at him and he felt comforted by it. “My parents, you know them as well?”
“Oh yes. Well, not personally, but I know of them. It’s Browning that we know better. Her family would hire us when the staff was in flux. Happened a great deal at the beginning of their tenure in the mansion. But Winnie and I were never up to snuff for them. Only good enough…I should not be speaking of her parents so poorly. Forgive me.” He told her it was fine. He’d heard they were a little cold. “Browning—it was what we called her for so long after they passed—she wasn’t what they wanted in a child. Daring and full of spit and vinegar. Once, when she was about four, we’d been there for a couple of days when she came into the house with not just a snake in her hand, but a turtle as well. Told us right off if we dared cook them for her supper, she’d have us put before a firing squad. I have never laughed so hard in my life.”
When Winnie cleared his throat, his wife moved to the stove. But before pulling out things from the fridge, she kissed Winnie on the cheek and made him blush. Aedan thought he’d enjoy having them around as much as he did his parents.
It took them two hours to get things squared away. And when Ennis came to join them, he was fed as well. Darcy had gone to work, saying that he’d be back late because he had to find him a place to live, and had his eye on a building or two in the downtown area. He’d been saying that for nearly the three weeks that he’d been sleeping over here.
“Your guest is resting right now. I took out the bullets and gave them to Mason when he came back for them. He said he’d take care that they got into the right hands. Mr. Neal is going to be down for a few more days, so I’ve made arrangements to have him a nurse brought in. Also through Mason. He’ll just need help getting up and down and his dressing changed. I’ll come see him a couple of times a day if you don’t mind. Just to make sure he’s healing all right.”
“You don’t want to do this.” Ennis said that he really didn’t mind. That he owed Mason. “Everyone seems to owe him. How is it he’s indebted to you?”
“The new building that I’m moving into? It has a lair in the sublevels. I mean, really, it’s an apartment with all the things that you’d find anywhere, except no windows. I’ve given him permission to live there for as long as I own the building. It’s safer for him, he said, than the aunts’ house.” Lynn and Sally, aunts of Stormy, had been letting Mason stay in their basement while he was in the area. And he’d been having repairs done on the house in return. “He said that he’d take care of the taxes for me, but I said I just felt better with him living there. Sort of a safety net should I need it in the event the place is robbed. I’ll have a lot of drugs in the place when I’m done moving in. Oh yeah, that reminds me, I have to talk to an attorney about something. I got this letter in the mail about something to do with drugs on the premises. Did you ever hear of a vault for drugs in a business like mine? Huge sucker, too, if I’m reading this right.”
“No. I mean, I guess that makes sense, but it’s not like you’re going to be selling them, right? We’re talking just things like samples and such.” Ennis said that was it, but he had to get one. “I’d check into it like you are. Probably just a precautionary letter they sent to all doctors.”
After his brother left, Aedan went to check up on his new guest and wasn’t surprised to find him resting comfortably. Getting ready to go into the office himself, Aedan thought about all the things that could go wrong with this. First and foremost, he could be out of the running for a job that he’d come to want very badly.

Richard Blood BrotherHood Book Five Release Blitz 7/11/16

Richard James is a very old vampire and was already an immortal when he joined Rembrandt’s team. Old grievances and heartaches, committed decades ago, still haunt him today. The murders of his mate and brother can be placed on a single culprit–Lucia Alverez.


Ryiah isn’t happy. It’s do as her sister says or suffer the consequences. She can handle the beatings, but being locked up in a cell again with no sunshine or earth is more than she can bear. Ryiah is fae and needs these things to survive. So when her sister says to bring her her mate, Richard James, the second lord of the Highlands castle of Ireland, that’s what Ryiah sets out to do.


Vampires and fae are mortal enemies. The blood of the fae is like an intoxicating drug to a vampire, turning the vampire feral. Rick knows immediately that the beautiful woman is fae, but that’s not the problem, there are other fae at Rembrandt’s compound and Rick has no problems being around them. But this one…there is something different about her….


From the moment he touches her, he knows that she’s his mate…the mate he didn’t want…and to make matters worse, she is the sister to his mortal enemy–Lucia Alverez….

                                                                Happy Reading 
Prologue
1816
“You will go to the home, and you will kill them both. If I so much as get wind that either of them live, I will hunt you and your family down and kill them all, making you watch as I do so.” The faerie before her nodded, his wings moving so quickly that he appeared to be floating in the air without aid. Lucia knocked him out of the air and wanted to ask him to repeat what she’d said to him, but he just lay before her, his face nearly buried in the dirt. “What are you waiting for? Do you think I should go and hold them for you whilst you remove their heads? Or perhaps you wish for me to drive the wood into their chests and reward you for my work?”
“Nay, my lady. Both of them will die this day. This I promise you.” She waited for him to leave her, but he lay there. Before she could ask him what he was waiting for, he lifted his head to glance at her. “He is said to be very powerful, my lady. Much stronger than even I am, being a lowly faerie and all. All I have to help me in this task is my magic, puny as it is.”
“You are asking for something? Perhaps you think you should have some of what I have?” He told her no and whimpered when she stood up. “You have it in your head to go there, to have some of me within yourself to kill this man? You wish a part of my magic? Do you think he will not know, should you fail, that it was me? That he will not smell me upon you?”
“Nay, my lady. I was thinking that you could give me a weapon to use. A sword to defend myself should he arise whilst I’m there.” She’d not thought of that, giving him a weapon. But there wasn’t any reason he should know that. “I should like to be able to come back here and report that I have done as you asked. I fear that should I only be able to kill one of them first, it will be doubly hard to kill the other with my magic drained so much.”
“There are ample things for you to take with you at the door. I am not stupid enough to think you could do this without my help. But bring them back to me if you please. I have a fondness for those things.” There wasn’t anything there, and when he returned to her to ask after them, she blamed it on someone else. Anyone but herself.
After he left her the second time, she sat in her chair. It was nothing more than a simple chair, not even made wholly of wood, but it served. For now. Someday, soon she hoped, she’d get her something worth sitting in. But for now she would use some of her magic, very little of it, to make it appear that it was as grand as she was.
A knock at her door had her tensing up. Surely he could not have done what she’d asked so soon. But when the Council of Magic and the Gathering entered her chambers, Lucia had a fear so deep that she felt her magic curl around her. When they both visited a person—both the ones that made the rules and those that punished when rules were not followed—you knew that something was wrong.
“Lucia Alvarez, it has been brought to our attention that you have been using magic to better your own station in life. Using it in ways that are against the rules of our kind. Of all kinds, as a matter of fact.” She wanted to point out that bettering her own station in life should always come first, but he continued before she could. Probably a good thing when she thought on it. “And as such, after looking into the matter, we have deemed the accusation to be true. You have murdered others for their magic, lesser beings that would have added nothing to your own base. You’ve stolen from higher faeries; not just their magic, but things that you have used to make yourself richer and your magic darker. You have also not paid your dues to us, something that you were to do every year on the day of your birth. These rules, and a great many others that you have dismissed for some reason, are to be followed to the letter, and this you know. You will come with us, and be heard before the Gathering.”
It was on the tip of her tongue to tell them to go away. That she had more important things going on right now that didn’t have anything to do with them. Of course, that would be a mistake. One thing that she had learned over the decades she’d been alive was that she wasn’t to mess with the Council. And never ever the Gathering, which was known to be harsh in their judgment, as well as quick.
She found herself transported before the Gathering and her hands bound in magic so that she couldn’t use her magic against them. It thrilled her to no end that they were afraid of her. But when they began to speak, each of them naming a law she had broken or a deed that she had done against humans and her kind, she knew that someone had turned her in. Someone who was going to be dead, and very soon.
When the list seemed to be coming to an end, Lucia wasn’t sure if she was supposed to be excited that her list of grievances was so long or pretend that she was saddened by it. Either way, she was pretty sure that she was in trouble. When asked what she had to say about her list of crimes, she pouted prettily at them.
“I don’t know what you’re speaking of. I have been a model faerie. I have…. As you might not know, I have been a volunteer at the local branches of the hospital, as well as working in other places that I cannot name at the moment.” There weren’t any places that she’d been working, nor had she ever volunteered. It was Ryiah who had done all of this and put her name to it, so if questioned, she would look like she had. “I have several letters of acclaim that tells of my work at the hospital. I am also on the board of directors at the library.” She tried to think what else was on that list, but came up blank. “This was all just a mistake,” she told them. “Whoever has turned me in for these crimes, they must have some sort of grudge against me.”
“Can you produce these letters?” She nodded and snapped her fingers. Nothing happened, of course, but she asked them for this one bit of magic to do as they asked. She needed to return to her home to get them and to bring them back to them. Just as soon as she was finished with the project she was working on. “No, that won’t be necessary. We shall send someone to your home to retrieve them. Where do you have them filed?”
Again, Lucia had no idea. There had been a list on her desk, but where was it now? She wasn’t sure where she’d put the paperwork that had been given to her over the last few months. She was positive that she’d not tossed it away, but she’d not filed it either.
Instead of telling them this, she asked to have her assistant brought to them so that she could go with them. In seconds, less really, Ryiah was standing by the dais with the Gathering.
Ryiah wasn’t happy…that much was obvious. But Lucia didn’t care what she was upset about now. It was more than likely something that she’d done, but so long as Ryiah did as she was told when she was told to do it, she could be as pissed as she wanted.
After the Gathering told her what they needed, Ryiah glared at her. It would have been her greatest pleasure to kill her. Every second of every day she wished the woman dead. But she couldn’t kill her. Few knew the reason why, but Lucia wasn’t able to even prick Ryiah’s fingers without great pain to herself. But that didn’t stop her from making her the scapegoat of every one of her deeds. Or at the very least the one that got her out of trouble.
The paperwork was brought to the Gathering, and once it was verified that it was real, Lucia was sent to a cell. It was better than having her head removed any day, but she didn’t want to be here at all. The next ten days, very little in the long run, was to be her punishment. It would keep her from her tasks and information. Information that she needed.
But alas, she would do her time for now, because it was better than the alternative. This was nothing, not for the deaths of the hordes of people that she had murdered. Not for the beheading of several heads of their government. She was in this cell for ten days because she had not reported the fact that she was now living in a nest of vampires. Who, she might have pointed out to them—but didn’t—were all dead. Also by her hand.
Ryiah came to see her on the last day of her sentence. She’d been calling to her since she’d been locked up, but today was the first time she showed. There was and would always be bad blood between these two, but to leave her without one bit of information, or even a few new clothes to put on, was cruel. And Lucia knew her sister was about as cruel as it came when she needed something from her.
“I’m only here to inform you that I have moved my things to the family home. I will no longer work for you.” Lucia only smiled at her. “You have no hold over me. I owe you nothing. And should you try and kill me, as you have done to so many others that I cannot fathom why you’ve not been killed by the Gathering, know that I have a list of not only where you have put the bodies, but also magic that can be used to watch you do the deeds.”
“I don’t care what you think you have over me, Ryiah. You’re nothing, and will never be anything more than a pawn in my plans. So you will move your things back to the house where I am. I have more need of you than before. The Council will keep a closer eye on me and my magic now, and I have no desire to be brought here again. And since you have decided, for whatever reasons that you have in that small mind of yours, to not come here when I call to you, I will punish you. Not as badly as I would like, but you will suffer.” Ryiah told her that she didn’t care. “Oh, but you should, Ryiah. You really should. Being my sister will not only open doors for you, it can shut them as well. When the Council finds out that you have lied to them to save me, what do you think they’ll do to you?”
“No more than you have tried over the centuries, Lucia. In fact, I think death would be better than living with you for the rest of my days.” Lucia stood up and came to the bars to scare her sister. But Ryiah held her ground, even went so far as to lift her chin in an act of defiance. “I despise you, Lucia. I truly do.”
“I care not for your feelings, Ryiah. Should it be possible, I would gladly kill you myself. But our blood relationship prevents it.” Ryiah just stood there, and Lucia wouldn’t have believed it possible, but she hated her sister even more in that moment because she truly looked as if she did not care what Lucia did to her. “You’ll do as I say because you know the consequences should you not. I own you. And will until I say differently.”
Ryiah didn’t move. Didn’t so much as blink at her. Lucia was fearful of her sister, if the truth was known. No one but her knew Ryiah for what she was…a powerful faerie in her own right. But Lucia had always made sure that she was close by to control it. And if Ryiah ever found her mate, then Lucia would pay, and pay dearly.
“I loathe you, Lucia.” Lucia smiled. She’d won. Again. And after waiting for her to tell her she was moving back, Lucia said nothing. So apparently she was going to be denied her begging, a pleasure that she tried to get from her sister as much as she could. “The woman is dead. The man you tried to have murdered? He is alive, but saddened because of you. And I do hope you know that when the other comes to claim you as his mate, you will no longer have a hold over me. A mate to you means my freedom. I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure that he finds you, too.”
“You will die when he finds me. I will make sure that I’m there when your head is removed from your body. No one will be there to save you, least of all me.” Ryiah said nothing, but did smile. A frightening sort of not giving a crap sort of smile. “Or perhaps I will bind you to him, to be his sex slave whilst I have my fun.”
“I will have no ties to him but through your magic. I will murder him before he even touches me.” She could do that, Lucia thought. Murder a man that was nothing to her. “Think well on your next move, Lucia. I will be your downfall if you make me move back to your home.”
Of course, she had to live with her. How else was she to keep an eye on her sister? Keep her away from all men that she did not deem to be safe and not her mate? Ryiah wasn’t going anywhere, and if she had to make her hurt to stay, then she would. Murdering her would be better, but again she wasn’t able to do that. At least not by her own hand. And she wasn’t worried about her having a mate. Lucia had taken precautions on that score, and he would soon be dead too. Or he’d better be. But Ryiah would not know that.
“I care not what you think you will or won’t do to me, Ryiah. I am your master and I will expect you there when I return.” She sat on the bed and glared at her sister. “Malcomb will be my mate, but not for many, many decades if he lives through this. I hope that he ends his own life. It will save me so much trouble. But if he does not by then, I have a plan that will make you heel, much better than you are now. Go to the house, have it cleaned from top to bottom. Then I want six…nay, seven men in my bed awaiting me. They will fuck me until I am sated. Then I will deal with you.”
After she left, Lucia sat there thinking. If her sister ever found out, ever even had an idea what she’d done to her, Lucia would be dead, by Ryiah’s hand. In this, her death would be justified. The bond that held them safe from each other would be broken, and her sister would be well within her rights to murder her. No harm to one that is blood. The rule, like so many others, had been one of the first ones that she’d broken. And there would be little that Lucia could do to stop her.
“So long as she never finds her mate, I will be safe.” It was her only fear…to be found out by Ryiah when she came into her power with her other half. Her magic, the very part of her that Lucia had stolen from her, would come to her sister then, and Lucia would be left with nothing. Not one single bit of magic to even call her sister to her. “Her magic is safe for me, and I will never let her go to find him. Whoever he might be.”
~~~
Rick moved among the ruins of his brother’s home. The pain in his own body was only secondary to the one in his heart. His wounds would heal when he next fed. He knew this, but the death of one that he loved as much as he did his brother would haunt him for the rest of his life. The death of his sister-in-law hurt them all.
Rick had been staying with his brother and his family last night or he might not have been able to pull his brother from the burning shell. He had no idea if a stray ember from the fires from the night before had started the blaze, or if someone had dropped a candle. As it was, his brother’s lovely wife had been killed by a stake through the heart, more than likely from falling timber, before he could get to her. Rick didn’t know why; if it was set, who would do this to his brother and his wife? But he was going to find out.
Turning when someone said his name, he looked at his only friend.
“You must go to ground, my friend. Should you stay out here longer, you will join your sister-in-law in the afterlife, and she will be most upset with you should you not avenge her death.” Janell looked around, then back at him. “I will find she who has done this. And when I do, I will make sure that she suffers greatly for it.”
“You know that it was set then?” She nodded at him. “Then I have no wish for you to get into trouble either. Nay, do not do this for me. I shall take care of it. Besides, you know as well as I that it was Lucia.” Janell said nothing, not even to acknowledge what they both knew. “She meant to destroy him for a reason that I cannot know.”
“It is said that Mary was to die in childbirth and Lucia was to be Malcomb’s second mate. I do know that the earth says this, but I cannot believe that such a match would have been correct. Your brother is a good man, kind and full of life. While Lucia is—”
“She’s a bitch and a murderer. And should she find out that I am the one that turned her in for her crimes all those weeks ago, I will be next on her list. I don’t even know why she bothered with poor Malcomb. He leads such a quiet life, not even bothering to be involved in family much. He is so timid and afraid of things.” Janell smiled at him. “You find this funny?”
“Nay, my lord, I do not. But she is with the Council as we speak. She sits in a cell awaiting her fate. The Council has found her guilty of the charge and she will be punished. I know not which charge, but it is said to have her behind bars until such time as things can be carried out.” He asked her how long that would be. “I do not know that
either, my lord. The Council has their own rules and secrets, and my kind, or any kind of being, is not privy to them. I only know that she was taken before them and that she was found guilty.”
Rick felt somewhat better, even relieved, but his brother and his family had suffered at her hands and he wanted revenge. But it had been taken out of his hands now. She would die quickly and not suffer in ways that he was…or his brother.
When he felt something akin to a blade into his heart, he fell to his knees. He knew what it was immediately. Malcomb was no more.
“My lord?” He waved Janell away, his heart tearing apart, because as surely as he was standing here, he knew that his brother had met the sun. His pain for the death of his wife was just too much. “My lord, you’re frightening me. Come away from there and tell me….” When she paused, he knew that she was as aware, if not more so, of what happened as he was.
“He’s dead.” Janell put her arms around him and helped him to an area in the yard that had not been a part of the devastation. “Malcomb hurt terribly. Even when I tried to help him out of the burning house, he begged me to leave him behind. Now…now he is gone from me.”
“It is the way of your kind.” He sat there thinking of his kind. The way that they took mates to make them stronger, yet it killed a part of them when their mates were gone. “Your own mate, she is coming too. Her love will mend you. I know this.”
“I’ve no wish to meet her.” Janell said nothing. “What should happen to her? When I cannot care for her the way that I did my brother?”
“I cannot tell you of that future. You know this. I only know that she comes to you. That is more than you should know of this.” He did know it, but it wasn’t something that he liked. “I have given you a part of me, my lord. You can now be in the sunlight because of our bond. This will keep you safe. And once you have taken your bride, she too will enjoy the benefits that come with you being her other half.”
As he sat there, Janell fussing with him about what he was doing, he looked down and saw the faerie garden that he had sat on. When he looked at her, he could see her shock and tried to stand up to move. He felt the pain almost as soon as he opened his mouth to ask her where he was, on whose garden he had lain.
His back and neck burned as if someone was setting hot stones to his skin. Even as he cried out that he wanted help with it, he knew that Janell couldn’t help him. Wouldn’t be able to, because she knew, just as he did, what was happening to him. Someone was killing him.
As he cried out over and over with the pain of it, he saw the blood as it ran down his body and covered his chest and arms, as whatever was going on with his body was diminishing. When it was over, the pain was less and he could feel that whatever had happened had created a marking on his body that would never leave him.
“She is a great and powerful being, the woman you have brought awake.” He looked up, seeing Janell bowing before a being that was as pure white as his blood was red. “You must stand and thank her, my lord. She has given you a great gift.”
“I hurt too badly for me to consider this a gift.” The laughter had him looking up again. He felt himself being pulled to the woman—for he had no doubt that was what the being was—his feet not touching the ground that neither of them stood upon, his pain gone. “Thank you, my lady. But since I think you hurt me, I think you owe me as well.”
“I have given you all that I can, Lord Richard James.” He felt his heart pound in his chest and wondered at it. “You will face many things in your life. A great many deaths yet, some that will bring you yet again to your knees. But know that as you stand before me, you will survive. Nothing will kill you.”
“The sun, it cannot, but a sword can remove my head.” She told him no longer. “I am but a mere vampire, my lady. Subject to the ways of my kind.”
“I have chosen you, with the help of your friend here, to help me with a great project. It will be many years from now. Decades will pass…centuries before she comes to you.” He asked her who. “A being so strong that she will give you more than you have ever seen. A power that will dominate all that bow before you. And a love that will know no bounds. A love that will last you both until the end of all time.”
“I’m not deserving. I think you…perhaps you meant my brother, Malcomb. He was a man to deserve such a gift. Not I.” She smiled at him and turned to look at Janell. It was then that he saw the jagged scar on the woman’s face. It marred her from hairline to chin. “Who would dare do such a thing to you?”
“It is of no consequence now that I have found you, Lord James. She will suffer greatly for hurting me thusly. When you meet a woman of great humility, you will save her for me. She will give you her heart, but not easily. Her body will be the greatest gift that a man can receive. Yet before she comes, there will be much death; you will witness many lives being taken in the name of greed. This woman and those that you are with will gain all that I have given you this day.”
He closed his eyes when she asked him to. When he opened them again Rick could see it then, markings all around his neck and down his back. He knew that magic had put them there. Because of what he was, there should have been no magic to mark him so. Magic, very strong and powerful magic, had done what nothing else could. He looked at her when she said his name.
“What is this?” She only smiled at him. “You’ve marked me as belonging to you. What if I…? What would you do should I try and end my life?”
The sword was in her hand before he could blink. She swung it around, cutting into his throat as soon as she lifted it to her shoulder. He felt it slice through him. Grabbing his neck to try and stop the flow of blood or his head from falling, he felt nothing. Not a drop of his blood, nor even a small tear to his flesh. And there was no pain. He asked her if she’d missed.
“Nay, I do not miss when I wield the sword of my kind.” Again, he asked her what she was. “You will live as I have decreed. And this favor I ask of you, you will carry it out for me and things will…the earth and the inhabitants of it will thank you for it.”
“Why me?” She only smiled at him again. Rick had a feeling that even if he were to ask her a million times, he’d not get an answer from her. “My lady, I just want to live my life as a vampire. I have no desire to find a mate. I don’t want anyone in my life that….
Well, I should like to join my brother. And there is a woman who will wish me dead soon enough. I would rather not subject a mate to such—”
“The matter is closed.” He felt his anger take him, burn over him like acid. But when she laughed, he knew a new kind of pain, consuming him in ways that had him thinking the marking of his body had been mere child’s play, his body stiff with it. “’Twill do you not one bit of good to try and harm me, Lord Richard James. Should you try, even thinking that I will end this between us, it will not work. You belong to me. And until you have completed this favor, you will be alive and healthy no matter what things come your way. Even during what you think of as your blackest times.”
When he was dropped to the ground, he stayed where he was. He knew her to be gone. The magic that had brought her to him was gone as well. But not the feeling that he’d been had. That he’d been tricked. He looked at Janell then.
“Nay, whatever goes into your head, I had nothing to do with it. When I sat you there, the ground was clear of any garden. It was not until I saw what you were about that I realized that it was someone’s magic.” He knew that. She could no more lie to him than he could her. “You have been chosen, my lord. A great gift was given to you as well.”
“I don’t think of it as a gift, Janell. Did you not hear her say that a great many people would die? That I would have my heart broken many times while I waited for my mate to come to me?” She nodded. “Will you remain with me? Not leave my side while I have to go on living?”
“I must take to the ground for a time.” He asked her why. “I need to rest. I have been, as were many other beings here, drained so that you might speak to the lady as you have. To hold her image for you is very taxing to my kind.”
“What was she? And why did she pick me?” Janell said nothing. He wasn’t sure if she was trying to keep from telling him the truth or if she didn’t know. “How long will you leave me? When will you return?”
“I know not.” He nodded and stood up. “You are lord now. You are aware of this, are you not? When your brother died, his lands and monies, they came to you.”
“I’ve no wish of it.” He didn’t need it, either. What use could he have for lands and monies? “Take it for yourself.”
“I shall protect it from others. I will rest on the land where he has died. The connection to the rest will be there for me.” He didn’t care and said as much to her. “You will someday, my lord. If for no other reason than when you take a mate.”
“I won’t. Not ever.” He knew it for the lie that it was. “The lady, she said I was to have pain, pain that would bring me to my knees again. I won’t have it, Janell. I can’t stand pain like this again.”
He wondered if his own mate would die before he could convert her, and decided that he wasn’t going to worry over something that was never going to happen. As he gathered what he could from the house, he made his way to talk with his parents. They would know that Malcomb was gone, as well as Mary, but he wanted to be with them. He would not talk of the lady that had come to him. Nor the magic that she’d given him.
He would mourn the loss of his brother and then move on. Life was going to be on his terms, not that of a woman who had no name.

Lee The Emerson Wolves Release Blitz 6/27/16

synopsis


No matter how hard she tried, Kimber Gray always seemed to manage to get knocked back down a peg or two. She was a top rate chef and graduated at the top of her class, but no matter how hard she tried no one would acknowledge it. Now, blackballed in the only profession she knew, she was a failure to the one that mattered most–her daughter, Hannah. With no recourse left to her, she’d have to grovel and beg her aunt for help.


Lee Emerson was glad to be back home for a while. He loved what he did, being a food critic and helping failing restaurants was a dream job come true. But he was tired of the traveling and just wanted to take care of things around the house and relax for a change.


Slone, Hunter’s mate, wanted to open a fancy restaurant and have Lee run it. He wasn’t so sure about that, but he’d love nothing better than to hire that chef that had prepared the last meal he’d had in France before he left. It was the best meal he’d ever eaten, and he had been disappointed when he found out the man had left before he could tell him so. The slush claiming to cook the meal, wasn’t the cook and he’d bet his last dollar on it.


Kimber had had it. Her aunt had gone too far this time, and there was no way she’d expose her little girl to such meanness again. They’d live on the street first, and she was trying to tell Slone that she wasn’t a charity case. That she could provide for her daughter somehow, when the most gorgeous man she’d ever seen cornered her, snarling that he’d protect her with his life.


Ah, hell no. Who in the hell did he think he was?

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Chapter One 


Chapter 1  
“He’s in his cups again.” Kimber only nodded. The woman standing in front of her started to tap her foot. “Well? Are you going to take over or not? Wendell has said that he’d rather die than to have to work in his place again, and Mark said that he is sick of working hard for him and getting no credit. It is up to you to take over for this evening’s dinner.” “I’m only the fourth cook, not the chef by any means.” Kimber knew she could do it, but it would be bad for her if she did. “He’ll fire me.” “No, he won’t. Who would he get to take over for him should he do this again? No one, I’m telling you. He’s done this too much, and no one wants to cover for him. There are no others that can or will do this. You are all we have.” Kimber glanced at the clock above Mrs. Stanton’s head. “You have plenty of time, yes?” “I’ll need help. And I won’t clean up after.” Mrs. Stanton looked pissed, but finally nodded. “And I want to have my own menu. Not his.” “You are going to make him upset, but I need a cook. Do what you must. But you had better be ready in time if you don’t want to have to worry about him firing you.”  Kimber nodded and moved to change her jacket. As the fourth chef in a restaurant this size, and always busy, all she ever got to really do was the garnish on the plates, make the salads when they were different than the regular salad, and occasionally she’d be allowed to do the side dish. Not often, but enough for her to feel good about still working here. Kimber Gray was a first-rate cordon bleu chef and had worked in one of the most prestigious restaurants in Europe. Someday it was going to look good for her to have that on her resume when she applied to work as first chef somewhere. At ten minutes until the dinner hour, she stepped back from her counter. The dinners would be perfect…the steaks were cut, and the fish—trout that had been earmarked for a trout almandine—had been changed to a stuffed trout with wrapped grilled asparagus, with a baby-laced Swiss sauce. Everything was as ready as she could make it. And when the first order came in, Kimber let out a long breath and began working on it.  The night wasn’t really busy, but she kept on top of everything. Appetizers were inspected to make sure that they fit with what the customer was ordering. Plates were spotless when she put her food on them, and looked like works of art when they left to be served. Kimber even made sure that two of the staff had clean jackets just before they left to work.  Things were just as perfect as she could make them. After all, she wanted this to be perfect, her solo night as head chef. She was pleased when very little came back on the plates that had been sent out, and even less of the small desserts that she’d made up when she’d realized there wasn’t any to be had.  The strawberries had been fresh and the cream would have gone bad by tomorrow, so she used them both to create a lovely dessert. The fresh blueberries had been sitting in their juices since yesterday, but they were usable and she wanted some color on the plate. 
  
By the time the restaurant was ready to close, she was more than ready to go home. But the last minute order had her staying just a little longer to complete it. The special had gone over well. And with this order, a single person had gotten the last of it. The wrapped asparagus was perfect even though it had been made up in advance, and there was leftover sauce that she put in one of the small cups and sent out with the meal. By the time the dinner was out the door, she had nothing left but a slice of cheese and a single dessert with some smashed blueberries on the side. Pulling on her coat, she watched as the rest of the staff scrambled to clean up. As per her arrangement with Mrs. Stanton, she wasn’t going to be joining them. Kimber did notice that the work station that she normally worked at wasn’t even touched as yet, but it wasn’t her problem. Home was awaiting her. She was so excited when she got to go back in the employee area to clock out for the night. She was nearly home when her phone rang. “One of the last patrons would like a word with you. I think he wishes to complain.”  It was Chef Hayes. His voice was slurred and he sounded very pissed. But Kimber knew that she’d done just what had been asked of her. Had he been sober, she would not have had to do his job. “I’m sorry, but if he wishes to complain, that would be to you or to Mrs. Stanton. I’m nearly home.” He started cursing and she felt her anger rise. “What is his complaint?” “Get your skinny little ass back here and find out. And you left your station in a mess. How many times have I told you to make sure that your area is cleaned when you are finished?” He huffed. “You will never be more than a grill cook for so long as you live. Why I took you on is beyond me. And I might not have if things had been different.” “Different how? And I had an arrangement with Mrs. Stanton.” He started laughing and Kimber felt the hair on her arms dance with her anger. “She said so long as I did the cooking, that others would clean my area. Also, had you not been in your cups, as she calls it, none of this would have mattered. Someone had to do your job, and I think I did a fine job of it.” “Fine job, is it? I’ll say what is a fine job and not. It was shit. It’s always shit when you’re working. And since when is she in charge of my kitchen?” Kimber felt her own anger take on a new level when he laughed again. “You will be here in the morning first thing. I will take care of this posthaste. Do not be late, Gray, or you will rue the day that you came to think you were a chef.” She was a chef. And for the rest of her walk home in the rain, she let her tears fall. She was a chef, damn it, and she wanted to someday work in the finest restaurant as one. But there had been stumbling blocks along her journey, and she had had to work harder at her life choices. It seemed to her that for every step forward she had made, there had been four to take her back. Kimber was sick of it. As she entered her tiny apartment, she looked at the woman who cared for her home and daughter while she was away. Fern Blue had been with her since Hannah had been born. And now, eight years later, they were more like mother and daughter than sitter to employer. Fern had needed her as much as Kimber needed Fern, so it had worked out well for them both. She woke when Kimber opened the door to hang her coat. 
  
“All tuckered out, she was. I had her take a lovely bath at around six and she fell asleep on my lap. We had us a good bowl of popcorn before.” Kimber nodded and sent Fern to her room. Going to her daughter’s room, she paused in the doorway to watch her. Kimber would bet anything that Hannah had been up since she’d been in this room. “What are you doing up so late, young lady?” Hannah turned and grinned at her, the book she’d been reading still in her hands. “What is it you’re reading now?” “Moby Dick.” Kimber moved into her daughter’s room and looked at the worn book. “Mr. Fillmore gave it to me. He said it was a classic. I think Mr. Fillmore is a classic.” “I’m sure he is too. But you should be sleeping. Don’t you have school tomorrow?” Hannah nodded and wrapped her body around Kimber’s when she picked her up. “You’re almost too heavy for me to carry anymore. When will you be carrying me?” Hannah laughed as she put her in bed. As her daughter closed her eyes, sleep taking her almost immediately, Kimber looked around the room. She felt tears fill her eyes when she thought of all the ways she’d failed her only child. The furniture in the room was second hand. Some of it was third or fourth hand, even. Her clothing was all things that she’d picked up here and there…a friend’s child had outgrown them, a tag sale that she’d found out about. Her books were new. Not the writers that her daughter adored, but her work books and other subject books for her classes, and the extra classes that she’d been taking.  Hannah was brilliant, read well beyond her years, and was a whiz at math. While her age had her listed as a third grader, the teachers at her school had been giving her work well beyond her grade level for months now, and it had improved Hannah’s wellbeing by not being bored in her classroom.  Dozing slightly, Kimber got up and went to the kitchen. There was just enough food in the cupboards to last until her next check. Instead of eating anything, Kimber made herself a cup of tea, her only luxury, and sat down to drink it. Something was going to happen tomorrow, and Kimber knew that with her luck, it wouldn’t be good. ~~~ Lee watched as the women worked the line. He’d arrived early this morning, just as the sun was coming up, and he wanted to make sure that everything he’d put in place before he left was where it should be. Then he was going to take a long, well-deserved nap. For about three days, if he was lucky.  The smack to the back of his head had him turning to his father. “You should have called when you were coming in. Someone would have picked you up at the airport. Now we have to figure out how to have a welcome home party on such short notice.” Lee hugged his dad and told him he loved him. “I love you too, boy. But you should have called. What are you doing here this early?” “I wanted to make sure that Dawn’s lines were working well before she went into production next week.” The two of them watched the line of women, three at the first part of the line and two more at each station after. The line, nothing more than a long set of burners that had been strung together, was going to make it so that Dawn could make ten to twelve batches of jams and jellies at each place, rather than just three or four as she’d been doing at her single stove. When he was satisfied that the work table was close 
  
enough to the stove so as not to be a bother, he moved to the other part of the building. His dad asked him if he’d gotten things set up for Sloan. “Yes. I made sure she had good people in the kitchen and that they know what she wants done each day. I think that if I ever open my own business, I’m going to make sure that there is a kitchen with staff on duty like she has. It’s a nice place to eat. The food is healthy without being stale, and it’s a great place for them to go and relax. I do think that she’s going to need to expand in a few years, but she said that would be something that she’d have to look into. I think she said she was landlocked.” “Yeah, I heard her telling Hunter that when the time was right, she’d have to go over there and see to it. I’m thinking that they might be making a trip when that baby is here. She’s looking ready to pop.” Lee nodded. He knew that Sloan only had a month to go, and he was excited about holding his niece soon. “You hear about the little one that Luke and Jack got? He’s a pistol, all right. And he’s looking forward to having a fishing day with me soon. Mike and his boy have come down and they showed us what we need. When you gonna make me a granddaddy?” “I’m thinking that I should find a mate first, don’t you?” His dad snorted at him. “I’ve been sort of busy. And so you know, I’m not in all that big of a hurry to find her right now. I have a house, but it’s being worked on. I have a job, but I’m all over the world trying to make it work, and in the event that you didn’t notice, I’m working more than I am socializing.” “Yeah, I’ve seen that too. What do I have to do, go out and find her for you like I did the rest of them?” Lee just lifted his brow at his dad. “You know that I had to get Sloan and Hunter together. Luke would still be dangling at the end of his sticks had I not charmed my way into Jack’s heart first. And then there is Ellis and Jarrett. I’m about worn out keeping the women coming in just to find your mates for you all.” “I think you should just let the women find us. Graham has finished school, but he’s got things going on, and I have to find my own niche in life before I can even think of settling down.” Lee thought of his brother Graham. “Has he…you know, has he moved on yet?” “Not that I can see. Finding that body nearly done him in. I know that the police never thought he’d done it, but I think he still has him a few dreams about it. Can you imagine working on a log jam and finding a woman all wrapped up in them limbs? She’d been there for some time, too, those people said.” His dad watched the line as it moved in the right direction. “You thinking that he’ll stay holed up in that house of his for the next fifty years?” “I don’t know, Dad. When I talked to him last week, he told me that he’s doing fine, but he sounded like he wasn’t. I’m going to try and see him while I’m here. Sloan said that his house is coming along well.” His dad nodded. “But as for my mate, I think I can wait her out, don’t you?” “You mean wait until she falls in your lap before you figure out she’s the best thing that could have happened to you.” Lee had changed the subject on purpose, just to bring his dad around from thinking about it too much. His dad seemed to have gotten the hint for now, and asked about what he was looking at now in Dawn’s building. 
  
“Jack told Dawn that she’d save big bucks if she printed her own labels. Jarrett set her up with the right kind of printer and the perfect paper, and all Dawn has to do is make what she needs. This will save her from having tons of inventory around just waiting to be used. Jack also told her that if she wanted to add something to them, like sugar-free if she went that far, then it would be easy to print up a few labels instead of a million or so that might not work out.” The machines were still now, the labels having been printed up a few days ago, but he liked the way it had been streamlined to not take up too much of her upper level. “I didn’t have anything to do with this part, but I can see that they had Jarrett up here. It’s nice.” As they made their way around the large building, Lee noticed that the kitchen area that he’d suggested be set up was well underway. Sandwiches were in the coolers right now, but he knew that in a few days, when people started to show up to work, there would be hot food as well as some cold for the employees. All of it was a perk to working here. He had also suggested to Dawn that she open a little shop one day and have some of her jams for sale in it, along with her scones and breads.  His dad moved to the large desk at the front of the building when they were nearly finished with their self-guided tour. Martha Brooks was running the phones today. Lee had heard from Hunter that Mary Peacock and Claribel Sharp had been taking turns working the desk for Dawn. The women had come from Hunter’s pack, but he knew that they loved working for his brother and his wife.  He was startled when the phone call that had just come in was for him. “I just found out that you’re in town.” He could hear the hurt in Sloan’s voice. “You go and see your brother before me? How could you?” “I haven’t seen Ellis or Dawn at all since I got here. I thought they were down there.” She told him she didn’t know anything anymore. “I’m sorry, honey. I just got in a few hours ago and had the plane bring me here instead of home so that I wouldn’t have to worry about this the entire time I’m home with you guys.” “Good save.” He laughed with her. “I’m just bored, if you want to know the truth. Your dad and I have put in as much garden as we dare already, but I want to get out there and dig the places up for my tomatoes. Did your dad tell you that we have first leaves already? They’re beautiful.” “No. He’s been hounding me about a grandbaby.” His dad popped him in the back of the head. “And he’s abusing me too. I tell you, I’d be better off just staying away sometimes.” “Oh no, don’t do that. What would I do without my family around me?” He didn’t answer her but smiled. “I’ve been thinking about some things that I’d like for you to look into. I have this place here in town that I want to convert into something…I don’t know, bigger. Like a steakhouse, but not.”  “You mean something more than the diner in your town, and with bigger ticket items.” She told him that was about right. “I ate a late dinner last night at this place where I was staying called simply Parfaitement Fait, or Perfectly Made in English. I had a stuffed trout that was so good I tried to go back and hire the chef. They told me that the chef had 
  
gone for the night, and all I got for my troubles was some drunk blowing his drunk-assed breath on me.” Her laughter made him smile. “And what would you have hired him for? You’re not thinking of being my competition, are you? I’m hoping so. Because I have to tell you that sounds delicious. Actually, everything sounds good to me. I’m always starved.” “You’re eating for two, so small wonder. And no, I’m not going to be competing with you in anything. I like to keep my own little corner of this world pissed off Sloan free. And the guy I talked to last night, I had a feeling…well, he didn’t strike me as the one who had made the meal. There was something…I don’t know. I knew that he was lying and he had no idea what I was talking about. He said I was to have had trout almandine and that I had it wrong. Like I said, he smelled of liquor too.” “Let me make a few phone calls. I know the restaurant. I don’t know what I can do, but I can find out for you. Perhaps we can persuade him to come here and open our venture.” Lee said nothing. He had thought when he went to school that he wanted to be this great cook. And now that he’d been working for Sloan and Hunter, he’d discovered that while he loved to cook, he was more into making the place work than being the chef. He enjoyed what he did more than anything he’d ever done before. Being a food critic for some really important newspapers was a dream he’d never even considered, but he loved it as much as he did figuring out problems at some really nice restaurants.  “Just let me know. Dad and I will be there by tonight. I’m telling you now so you won’t be disappointed that I will be there for dinner, but I need to go to bed. I think I’ve been up for three days straight.” She told him that they’d expect him for dinner, and that maybe Ellis and Dawn could make it back as well, and that he should ask them. “I’ll see what I can do.” After hanging up, he told Dad what they’d talked about as they made their way to Ellis’s house. The building that Dawn was in was close to the house, so they opted to walk. As soon as they were in the yard, Lee stood back and stared.  “Yeah, nice, huh?” He glanced over at Ellis as he came out of the barn just behind him. His brother looked very relaxed and happy as he continued. “We weren’t sure that we wanted it this big, but the more we thought about it, the bigger the house got. There’s room if you want to stay tonight. I know that Dawn would love it.” “Sloan and the rest of them are expecting all of us for dinner.” Ellis nodded and took him to the house. “Christ, this is gorgeous. What the hell? Did you win the lottery?” “No. We ran into some unexpected money.” Lee nodded. He’d heard about the inheritance from Dawn’s family, and that they had accepted her into their family with open arms. “When we showed them the house we were building before we left for our honeymoon, they were happy. But when we got back, there were more rooms on the framing, as well as a whole upper level that we’d had no idea about. Her grandparents said that when they come to visit they want to burden us with their presence.” Lee laughed and so did Ellis. He was taking them in the front of the house just as Dawn came from the back of it. He hugged her tightly, ignoring the growls coming from Ellis. Dawn looked wonderfully happy too. 
  
“You’ll stay for dinner?” He told her what he’d told Ellis. “Oh. I guess we should go. The family has been excited for you to come home for weeks now. I’m so glad that you’ve made it home safely. How long will you be here?” “I’m hoping a couple of months. I have some projects here that I can take care of, and two on the burner for Sloan. But I’m hoping everything can be worked on from here.” She asked him about his house. “I’m hoping to get it done too. Mostly it’s just moving stuff in that I’ve already ordered. There are some decisions that I need to make. Most of them are things that I could probably have taken care of over the phone, but I wanted to be there too. I miss you guys.” “We missed you too. I guess you’ve been to the plant?” He nodded. “I’m so nervous. Not about the lines that you helped me get set up, but all of it. I’m so worried that I won’t be very good at this.” Ellis laughed before talking. “Yeah, those nearly two million dollars in orders mean that she’s going to fail big time. I mean, who would want to buy her things anyway?”  “You have that much in pre-orders?” Ellis told him that was just on her website. She had nearly double that for stores wanting to carry her line. “Holy shit, Dawn, that’s wonderful. I’m very proud of you.” “I’m nearly sick with it.” Lee looked at Ellis over her head when he hugged her again. He mouthed the word Basil and he nodded.  Her uncle, a man by the name of Basil Combs, had been found criminally insane by the courts. Other charges were pending: kidnapping, murder, as well as abuse to a corpse. But those were on the back burner until they could figure out the names of all the women, some dead and others still coming forward, that had in some way been harmed by the man. Basil’s mother had been murdered as well, and they were still trying to pin that on his list. The man had been taking women or children from their homes for decades. His “wife,” Neva, had been one of many that had been brought into the house as a play-thing, and had ended up living out the rest of her life with him. He’d also kidnapped Dawn’s mother, and had made her daughter’s life a living hell when she’d told him off. Life, as far as Lee could see it, was a never-ending line of people shitting on one another to get to where they wanted. Thank goodness his family wasn’t like that. As they boarded the plane a few hours later, Lee was dozing in the seat when his dad touched his arm. He had to stare at him for several seconds before he realized that he was talking to him about the phone.  “You okay, son?” He nodded and took the phone from his dad. “You look like you’ve not slept in about a month. You sure you should be going to dinner tonight?” “Yeah, I’m fine. Just really tired.” He put the phone to his ear just as the pilot was telling them they were ten minutes from landing. Lee said his name in the phone as he started to pull on his seat buckle. “Mr. Emerson? Is this Lee Emerson, the food critic? I’ve heard so many things about you.” Lee told him that he was in flight, and that he needed him to tell him why he’d called. “Sir, there is a problem with the request that I have in for Mrs. Emerson. She called my restaurant just today requesting the information on the chef that had cooked the night 
  
you were there. I’m sorry, sir, but the chef said that the person you were asking for is no longer with the restaurant.” “I see. Can you tell me why?” He said that he wasn’t sure. That as the owner of the restaurant, he had given full control over the kitchen to his chef. “And so you have no idea that the man you left in charge was drunk when I saw him just before leaving? Nor that the meal that I had that night was one of the best that I’ve ever eaten?” “Drunk? Oh no, sir. That couldn’t have been our chef. He no longer drinks.” Lee looked at Ellis when he touched his arm. They were at the airport, but he wanted him to take his time with the call. “He said that when he spoke to you, you were confused about the food that you were served. Are you sure you had the right restaurant?” “I’m sure. And you can be sure of this…if he fired this person that cooked for me, then you have made the stupidest decision you have ever made when it comes to running a restaurant. And I’m going to write up an article on it and say that, too. Not only did the staff look relaxed and happy, but the food, all of it, was outstanding. I noticed that when I was speaking to him that the entire kitchen staff looked like they were ready for him to explode. And he did, twice, while I was there.” “I assure you, sir, that I’ve never heard of anything like this from this restaurant. You can be assured that I will look into this. There are some…well, I won’t bore you with the details, but I’ve noticed some issues on the paperwork on that particular place. I’ll take care of it.” Lee told him he’d better if he wanted to remain in business for long. “If I do find that you are correct, I will get back with you.” “You do that. But I have a feeling that the next time I talk to you, you’re going to be telling me that you’re going out of business and that it was all because of the chef you have now. If I were you, and you know my reputation if you’ve heard my name, I’d be looking into the chef you have now and start asking questions. You’re about to get a rude awakening.”  


Burke Bentley Book Four Release Blitz 5/30/16

Burke Bentley’s decision to quit the hospital and go into practice with his brother was the best decision he’d ever made. With the daily pressures gone, he could do what he loved to do most –be a doctor.

Piper Cordale, Pip to her friends, just wanted to bust her friend out and go. She didn’t handle people well and needed to be on her way, but fate had other things in store for her. Her friend’s gorgeous doctor, Burke, insisted that he was her mate. Pip didn’t have a mate, nor did she want one. The chore of breathing in and out was hard enough.

But when she saw Burke’s nephew, Shane, sitting all alone, she reached out to him, and they formed an instant bond. She was fae and told the boy if he ever needed her, all he needed to do was call out and she’d be there.

When the unthinkable happens, and Shane and his brother Walter are targeted by a madman, can Pip reach his side fast enough? Is she strong enough to save them both?

The Bentleys must band together like never before to protect their young and pray that it’s enough….

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                                                   Happy Reading 
                                                    Kathi  S Barton 
THE BENTLEY LEGACY 
1. MICAH – http://smarturl.it/micah 
Chapter 1
Burke stretched his neck and heard it pop twice before he leaned back in his chair. The ding of his computer, telling him he had an email, didn’t even faze him. He was beyond exhausted, but as happy as he’d ever been in his life. He looked up when he felt someone in the room with him. Nolan smiled as he sat down across from him.
“What did he weigh?” Burke just slid the file over to him without moving much. “Wow, you were almost dead on. Nine pounds, ten and a half ounces. Christ, you might have hit the all-time record with this one.”
“He was a bear to get free.” Burke smiled again. “His daddy is about to bust his shirt, he is so proud. But I have a feeling that Momma is going to be saying no a lot more now that they have a son. Seven little girls and now a boy. I don’t envy that little guy.”
Burke had been worried for a bit when the baby had been breach. But the mom, a tiger, had told him to fix it. Burke did and then twelve minutes later, little Cartwright James had come into the world screaming his head off.
“You’re settling in okay, right? I know it was hard for you at first.” Burke nodded at Nolan and told him he thought he was. “When you came out of your office that first visit, I thought you were having a heart attack.”
“I did too, to be honest. I wasn’t used to people being so frank about why they were there. And then when he showed me his arm and told me that he’d cut it doing something so mundane as chopping wood on his farm, it was all I could do not to call the cops, thinking of foul play.” Burke sat up in his chair when his computer dinged again. “I’ve been getting emails since Monday from the hospital. I’ve only read the first couple of them, but it looks like they’re wanting me to come back at any cost. What do you suppose is going on?”
“I heard from Mom that there was a shake up about some of the surgeons. Something about a rotation schedule. To be honest, didn’t really listen. What are they wanting you to do? Come back part time?” He told him what the one email said. “They want you to come back as chief of the hospital’s emergency room? Wow, there really must be some shit going down. What are you going to tell them?”
“Nothing. I mean, as I said, I’ve not read more than a few of them, but even after the first one, I knew that I’d never go back. I love this job. I like what I’m doing. And I know that I’ve only been doing it for about a month, but I feel like I’ve found my dream job.” Burke heard the computer again and turned off his speakers. “Mom told me that next week we’re going over to her house for a little pre-Thanksgiving test tasting. I have no idea what that even means.”
“It means that she’s going to try and cook up something strange and she wants us to approve it. I hate pre-whatever meals.” Nolan stood up. “I have two more patients tonight, then I’m done. What about you?”
“I’m done. I have a few notes to make, but I have nothing to rush home for just now, and I thought I’d hang a few more things up. I finally got my things out of storage yesterday.” Nolan nodded and told him not to be late tonight. “Nolan? Will you do me a
favor? I’d like to find me a house. Nothing on the scale that you guys have, but something sedate and sort of smallish. Do you happen to know of a realtor, or someone selling?”
“We don’t do smallish and sedate in this family. Haven’t you learned that by now?” Burke was afraid he’d say that. “But it would be my pleasure. Do you have any ideas? Other than I’m assuming close to home?”
“Yes, close to home. I don’t want to build. I have no desire to pick out carpets and wall shit. Just a house I can go to when I want to unwind, as well as a nice yard. Shane gave me a list, but I think the kid has it in his head that all of us Bentleys need giant homes. The two that he showed me were as big as your house.”
Nolan laughed as he made his way out the door. But when he stopped and looked at him, Burke felt his cat run along his skin. “Are you happy, Burke? I don’t mean with coming to work with me, but in general terms, are you happy?”
“I think so. I’m lonely most of the time. Not so much anymore because I can see the family more because I have a better schedule. Did you know that Walter has been popping over a lot? Well, he and Shane sometimes, too. And I’m telling you right now, that car you helped him buy has that kid thinking he’s king of the world. And I guess he comes home from college a little more too since he got it.” He knew he’d not answered his brother’s question, not really, and changed the subject before he could ask him anything else. “I’ll see you at Mom’s at six for dinner. Then maybe we can go on a run if you and Rylee aren’t too busy.” Nolan told him it was a date.
When he was alone, Burke pulled out the boxes that he’d brought in on Monday. Then he got himself a bottle of water and his tool box. He smiled when he looked at the name that was engraved on the top. It had been his dad’s, one that Burke had gotten for him when he’d been about ten. Running his fingers over the crooked letters that spelled out Dad, he thought of his father again.
Burke and his father had been close. Not as close as he and Micah had been, but almost. His dad, Grandda, and he would meet up once a week to go fishing, even if his dad had to miss a little overtime to do it. It had become their time. Then one day, it had only been him and his grandda.
“He loved you.” Burke told Grandda that he knew that. Burke’s father had been killed a couple of years before, right around Thanksgiving. This time of year as a matter of fact. “Didn’t think I’d outlive him, never dreamed of it. And here I am, sitting with my grandson, feeling both our grief overwhelming us.”
“Grandda, I think he knew that he was going to die.” His grandda had nodded but said nothing as they both sat there with their poles forgotten in the water. “He told me that if I did nothing else in life, that I should be happy. No matter if I wanted to be a homeless man. Just so long as I did something that made me feel good and happy.”
“He sure did love what he did.” Burke knew that as well. “My boy Micah told me once that being a cop like I had been was one of his greatest pleasures in life, besides marrying your momma and having you boys. I wish all the time that he’d not been killed and that he was right here with us. I worry about your momma too.”
“She’s really sad. And I hear her crying all the time too.” Grandda had nodded and blew his nose in his handkerchief. “I don’t think she wants to live anymore. Her heart is just too broken.”
“No, but she will. Now she will.”
Burke had heard them talking. Mom was telling his grandma and grandda that she wasn’t fit to be their momma anymore. She didn’t have it in her to want to go on. Grandma had sobbed hard, and Grandda got mad at her. Burke wasn’t sure what had happened after that. He’d been called away by one of his brothers.
And she had gotten better after that. Flourished even more since the grandchildren had come along, as well as the three wives of his brothers. Burke took out the first framed picture and smiled. It was the one they’d taken at the charity event last month, all of them standing in their finest and happy. There were others of them as a family…the babies, as well as Shane, were in them. But this one, the one taken of them sitting at the table all together and smiling when someone asked them to turn to them…Burke thought it was his favorite.
Burke was just putting the nail in the wall for the last framed picture when there was a knock at the door. Telling his assistant, Margaret, to come in, he turned to her when she didn’t speak. The man at the door with a knife to Margaret’s throat had him reaching for not just Micah, but all of his family to tell them what was going on.
You know him? He told Garth that he did not. We’re coming. I’m with Tony, and Micah and Reggie are close too.
The man started talking to him, using Margaret as his shield. “You go over there.” Burke did what he was told and moved with his hands up. “Where is she? I want you to bring her right on out here now.”
“Her who?” When he hit Margaret with the knife butt, Burke felt his cat run along his skin. “I’m trying to be helpful here, but I don’t know who you might be talking about. And that being said, I can’t bring her without that information.”
“Captain McClure. I want her now.” It took him several seconds to remember who he was talking about. Rylee, Nolan’s wife. “You tell her that she needs to come and see what she’s done to me.”
“All right. I’ll do that for you if you let Margaret go. She’s done nothing to you.” He told Nolan what was going on and he asked for the man’s name. “You just tell me who you are and I’ll call her right now. No funny business.”
“You fucking damn well right there won’t be no funny business. I want her here, and if you think I’m giving over this woman, then you’re stupider than them bastards at the hospital.” He told Nolan what he’d said. “My name is Franklin. They won’t treat me no more.”
“What is it you need treating for, Mr. Franklin?” He told him that his first name was Franklin. “All right then, Franklin, what is it that you need treatment for?”
“I got me a wound.” Burke nodded as he made his way to his desk. There was nothing there that he could use against a knife, but he was going to be calm and cool about this. “They said that it’s not nothing they did, so they ain’t gonna help me out.”
“Can I look at it? I’m not sure what you thought that McClure could help you with, but I’m a doctor.” He nodded and held the knife tighter to Margaret throat. “You hurt her and I won’t have anyone to help me treat you. And I won’t, either, if you don’t let her go.”
“She said that we could get fixed up. But that guy down there said no. He said that it wasn’t related to the army.” Burke asked him what place he’d gone. “Down to the new place that has been helping us out. You know, the Micah Bentley place.”
“Yes, I know the place. I work there, as well as one of my brothers. He’s the one that started it.” Franklin looked as if he didn’t believe him. “Nolan, he’s my brother and a good doctor too. He did that for you. And if someone turned you away, I’ll find out why for you.”
“I hurt.” Burke nodded and moved a little closer. Franklin was looking weaker now, his face pale. Burke could feel something wrong with him but not what. It wasn’t until he felt Chris touch his mind that he knew.
He has something on his spine, a cut along with a few other injuries. He had to escape. But to be honest, I don’t know what that means. His mind is all jumbled up. They won’t treat him because he’s got other issues. Mostly that his mind is hurting. They thought him too depressed to help. But the doctor there is being dealt with as we speak. Your mom is there at the clinic now. Burke could almost feel sorry for whoever it had been. Your brothers are nearly there, but I’ve told everyone to wait. You have this under control, don’t you, Burke?
He told her he hoped so, but to send in Rylee if that was okay with Nolan. The man was a human, and he might not know that he was a panther. Instead of pretending to use the phone, he told him that he’d contacted his brother.
“I want McClure here. She told me I’d be all right.” He told him how he was related to her. “Oh. Then she’s coming here?”
“Yes, but I won’t let her come in here until you let Margaret go. You’re scaring her, and I really like her. I need her to work with me.” Franklin said he was right sorry. “I know you are. Just let her go and I’ll have a look at your back. Then when Rylee gets here, you can talk to her.”
He staggered back from Margaret, who turned and slapped Franklin. When he just stood there, his face looking sort of sad, Burke asked her to set up a room for them. She nodded once and started out of the room.
“You do something like that to me again, Franklin, and you will think that Rylee is sweet on you when I’m finished with your old body.” Franklin looked at him when Margaret left the room. “Rylee is on her way.”
“I think that nurse is mad at me.” Burke nodded. “I want you to know that I only came here on account’a I knew the Captain was here sometimes. I heard tell that she hangs out here. Guess nobody knew that she had herself a husband that worked here too.”
“She’s married to my brother, Nolan.” He knew he was repeating himself, but Burke was trying to get his thoughts together. When Margaret came back to say that Rylee was here, Burke put out his hand. “I want the knife. And any other weapon you have on you. I’ll not have you trying to hurt her when’s she’s done us both a favor.”
“I like her.” Burke said he did as well. And when he put the knife in his hand, he asked him if there was more. “They took it from me when I went to the hospital once. Said I was unfit to carry any more. I was fit to carry when I had a bullet in me and they was needing me overseas, but now that I need to get some help, I’m unfit.”
“You come on along then and we’ll work in this.” He saw Rylee just as he was guiding Franklin into the room. He asked for one minute and she nodded. Burke went in and saw that Margaret had gotten his shirt off already. Burke wasn’t prepared for what he saw on the man.
~~~
Pip searched up and down the long building, trying her best not to cry. Franklin had been missing for four days now, and she was sure that he’d been arrested again or murdered. When the young man who had been trying to keep up with her finally did, she asked him again if he’d heard that he was here.
“His name isn’t on the list, miss. You said he could write, and he’s just not there.” She’d been confused by that when he’d asked her if he could write his name. He explained that there were plenty of men there that could not. “Mrs. Bentley is with the doctors now or I’d ask them if they—miss, you can’t go in there.”
She’d seen the room earlier where a bunch of people were closed off in a room. Pip knew they were mostly doctors and other staff. Why they were having a meeting now was sort of mind boggling to her since there were people everywhere that needed help. But she was missing the only man she’d ever loved, and one of them had to know where he was.
The door opened easily. She’d been sure it would have been locked. And when she walked in, she almost had the feeling that they were expecting her. Which wasn’t possible, as she’d only just gotten into town. A woman sitting at the head of the table was laughing, but the older woman who looked to be in charge just stared.
“I’m trying to find out if my uncle has been here. I heard from someone at the VA that he’d been…well, he escaped. They’re not very good at keeping him safe, and I’ve tried my best to get them to understand that he hates to be tied down, but they don’t listen. I’ve had to take on two jobs as well as move here to try and get him to be signed over to me.” She looked around the room. “I’ve shared too much. But I need to find him.”
“What’s his name?” She told the older woman. “Ah. We were just talking about him. Come on in, dear, and have a seat. And so you know, we know just where he is and he’s in good hands.”
“I want to go to him. Now if you don’t mind.” The woman nodded but didn’t move. “Perhaps you didn’t get it. I want to go get him and take care of him. Wherever he is, it can’t be safer than when he’s with me.”
“He’s with my son, Burke, who is taking care of him. He broke into Burke’s offices and demanded to see a woman by the name of Captain McClure. That would be my daughter-in-law, Rylee.” She asked what this man was doing for him. “He’s a doctor. Burke said that he’s doing some minor surgery on him now, and that he’d have him brought here in about thirty minutes.”
Before she could think that she was light headed, she was sitting in a chair with her head between her knees. The shoes in front of her were expensive and looked comfortable. For a moment she wondered what it would cost to have something like that, and heard someone laugh. Pushing against the hand that held her, she looked at the face of the younger woman that had been seated.
“You all right now?” Pip nodded. “Here, you drink this juice and I’ll tell you what I know. Franklin Bradshaw was here earlier today. And yesterday, from what we’ve been able to piece together. He was turned away both times.” Pip emptied the tall glass of orange juice and realized it was fresh with pulp, the best kind.
“Why? I mean, you have your doors open for anyone, correct? Not that he should have been out and about on his own, but I thought this place was for people like him, vets.” The woman nodded. “I’m Piper Cordale, everyone just calls me Pip.”
“Chris Bentley.” Pip looked around then back at the woman. “Yes, my family owns and runs this place. That’s why we’re taking care that your uncle gets the best care now and that the people who turned him away are dealt with. Not everyone is cut out for helping the lost.”
“I’ve been trying to help him, but he’s a lot to handle. I suppose he’d say the same thing about me.” Chris nodded. “And you should know that I’m not his niece but his friend. For some reason it’s easier to get someone to listen to me when I say that I’m related to him. Franklin hasn’t anyone left, and I’ve been trying to make things easier for him.”
“At what cost to you?” Pip said nothing but played with the condensation on the now full glass. “Does he know what you are?”
“No. I don’t think so. I mean, he might have at one time, but his mind is a little fuzzy at time on details.” Chris said nothing. “That other woman, she said that her son was working on him. Can you tell me what happened to him?”
“He was injured when he tried to get away from the hospital. Burke said that in addition to the wound at his back, he also had bruising around his wrists and ankles. He said it looked to him like they tied him down.” She said they had to at times to keep him from hurting himself. “No, that’s not why they do it and you know it. It’s why you’re trying to get him to come live with you. Please don’t lie to me, Pip. We won’t have a good relationship if you do.”
Pip looked at her. “I’m not sure what you mean by that, but I really don’t think we’re going to be best of buds, do you? I mean, you know as well as I do that I’m broke.” Chris cocked a brow at her. “Yes, I know what you are and who you are. And I’m also pretty sure you can read my mind. Not that I have much in the way of secrets. But if you want to know something then don’t rape my mind. Ask me.”
“All right. And the only thing that I got from your head was about my shoes. By the way, they’re very comfortable. When I touched you, all your emotions came to me and I can’t stop those. Also, I wanted to make sure that you were all right as well.” Pip nodded. “You’re not, are you? All right, I mean.”
“No. I have issues as well. Chronic Major Depression, or CMD as my file says on it. It’s what brought the two of us together all those years ago.” Chris asked her how. “I was
ready to jump. I had no idea he was there as well, on the building I mean. And when I lifted my hands off the railing that I’d been holding onto, he grabbed me from behind. No matter how much I fought him to be let go, he hung onto me like it was his business. I wasn’t able to shake him for another year and a half.”
“But that didn’t stop you, did it?” Pip pulled her sleeves down over her wrists and said nothing. “Franklin told Nolan that you were his niece just now. He asked me to have you be there when they come in.”
“Is he going to be all right?” Chris said that he was now. “I need him in my life as much as he does me, I guess. If anything were to happen to him…. I just don’t want anything to happen to him, that’s all.”
“Is it what you are that has you so depressed?” Pip just shrugged as she emptied the glass of juice again, only to have it full when she sat it on the table. “If you want something different, I can get it for you.”
“Cranberry.” The glass, which had been full of orange juice, was now filled with a dark red, blood like juice. Picking it up, Pip moaned as the flavor and the richness rolled over her tongue. Almost as soon as she set the glass down, it was full again. “Thank you.”
“You could have done it on your own.” Pip just shook her head. The depression, coming in waves more and more lately, nearly had her falling to the floor. But a touch from Chris and she could feel it dissipate. Not leave her; there was only one way for that to happen, but it did lessen a little. “How long have you been off your meds?”
“Five years, six months, and twenty-nine days. Since I lost my insurance, along with my job, when I couldn’t function at work when they fucked with my dosage. It happens at times. The place where I got my medicines wasn’t the best of places, and I don’t think they got the dosages just right when I picked them up. It had happened before.” Pip smiled at Chris. “I guess it’s what you are that makes it so I can’t lie to you.”
“No, you don’t want to lie to me.” Chris stood, and so did Pip. “They’re here. Nolan, my brother-in-law, is with Burke and would like for you to hang back a little until they get Franklin in a room. He’s afraid that if you show, he’ll get upset again.” Pip nodded. “Rylee is with Franklin as well. He knows her from the service.”
“His boss, I guess.” Pip sat down again when Chris told her she’d be back. The glass filled when she’d emptied it again. She was going to be buzzing soon if she didn’t stop. But as a faerie that hadn’t had any for a while, she was getting it while the getting was good. And she had a feeling that despite what Chris had hinted at earlier, she’d not be seeing the grand witch again.

EliJah Release Blitz Calhoun Series Book Two & Winner Announce 5/2/16

Synopsis

Noelle was in somewhat of a pickle. She had researched the Calhoun firm―Elijah Calhoun in particular―before she made the appointment, but she was having second and third thoughts about hiring the firm after she got there. All her research indicated she could trust them, but big men scared the hell out of her, and the place was full of them.
Elijah had been running a tad late for work, so his brother Trent took his first appointment. Elijah never dreamed that the woman he had an appointment with was his future mate…and she needed his protection.
Noelle’s stepfather wasn’t their only problem. Elijah’s brother Sterling’s nightmares had gotten worse and somehow the creature that had marked him was controlling his actions as well…no one was safe….

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Chapter 1

Helenia stood in front of the mirror. She liked this new look. The younger people used so much color in their lives that she was sure that they’d had her in mind when they came up with it. The pink of her blouse, the green of her pants…she thought perhaps that she could get used to this style, unlike the other decades when women wore long billowing clothing and wigs that itched. Not to mention shoes that pinched so badly that she would sometimes go barefoot under her clothing so no one would know. Not that she cared, but it still gave her a sense of freedom. And Helenia was going to be free forever.

She was still trying to decide which other outfit she was going to keep when she felt the movement of air around her. Standing as still as she could, pulling shadows from every corner around her to hide herself, she turned and looked around when she knew no one could see her. Not humans at any rate.

“Hello, Helenia. It’s been a very long time.” Dante flicked at her shoulder when they both knew there was nothing on her. When he did so again, she grabbed his hand and held him tightly in her grip until he dropped to his knees. “You always did overreact. Let me go, Helenia. I do not care for being treated this way.”

“Perhaps you should have thought of that before you touched me.” She bent his hand back more until she heard the bones break. His screams went unnoticed by her and the patrons of the store. They were invisible to anyone but other supernaturals. “What are you doing here? You know that I do not like you well enough to have you around me even for a moment.”

“They’re hunting you.” She let him go and asked him who was hunting her. “The Board of Vampires, they’re looking for you. They have every vampire looking for any information about you, and there’s a bonus if they have an idea where you might be staying.”

“And you? You thought to collect on it, Dante? I should hope that you’re smarter than that. To know that to try and profit off of my demise, you’ll be dead before the next sunset. I have no more use for them than they do for me. I like it that way.” She looked around and saw that two others were watching them, vampires younger than Dante and not even close to being anywhere near as old as she was, and far less powerful. “Did you come with others? To hope to trap me?”

He stood then, his wrist healed already, and looked to where she was looking. He must have fed before coming to catch her, she thought, but it would do him no good. The two others, both males, started toward them.

“I don’t know them. They more than likely heard about the bounty on your head, and decided to collect too.” She asked him how much it was. “Twenty-five thousand points.”

“So much?” He nodded. “And all for me? What do they think is going to happen when they send babies for me? That I shall sit idly by and let them take me in?”

Vampires for the most part had no use for money. She had a great deal of it; over the centuries she’d managed to steal a great deal of not just cash, but gems and other valuables that humans used. But after a while, usually after a couple of centuries, a vampire would realize that having it for no other reason other than it was easy to come by held no appeal. She had hers to get humans, stupid animals, to do things for her.

So the Board had been giving out points, or credits, to use when they had committed some crime or had not followed a rule in the strictest sense of the word. Helenia had long since stopped trying to gather points. She was so far in the hole now that even if she got a thousand a day, it would not put a dent in her bad deeds.

“Noah is after you as well.” She looked at Dante just as the two babies, the younger vampires, were closing in. “He is the one that called the Board on you, from what I understand.”

“I thought him dead. He is such a pussy, even for as old as he is. Christ, to think that he finally grew some balls and turned me in. Not that it will do any of them any good. I am stronger than he is by far.” Helenia hadn’t had any dealings with Noah, but she knew what he was. A vampire that stayed alone and followed most of the rules.

The babies were nearly to her when she lifted her hand and blasted one of them with her power. He was nothing more than ash on the shoes of the people who continued to walk the sidewalks in the mall as if he’d never been. She supposed, as far as they knew, he had not. The second man, stupider than the first, lunged at her, and she simply snapped his neck. If this was the best that the Board had, she was going to live for another thousand years, easily. His ash dusted the outfit that she had on.

“I swear to you, Dante, there is no hope for nice things anymore. I get me something pretty to wear and these idiots just come along and mess it up.” He said nothing but looked around. She wondered if he was expecting more babies to come for her, and just grabbed three of the outfits she’d been looking at and left the shop. Dante was right behind her.

“What do you plan to do? Go back to your lair?” She said nothing as she moved in and out of shops picking what she wanted and sending it to her home across town. It was much easier than going around with a large bag in her hands, and it wasn’t as if she needed to keep any receipts. Helenia hadn’t paid for anything in decades. “I was wondering if you need someone to be with. I’m between homes right now.”

“Do you suppose that these shoes will match the dress that I got? No matter.” They disappeared as well. “No, I don’t want you around me. I prefer my own company to that of idiots.”

Two more stores, mostly clothing then a jewelry store, and she had all that she wanted for now. Honestly, Dante had soured it for her by telling her about the Board. She turned to him when he asked her again where she was going now.

“I should have thought that you’d know better than to try and collect on my being jailed, my friend.” He tried to look shocked, but it looked mostly like fear to her. “To think that after all this time, you still think me stupid. When all along, it was you.”

Helenia let her magic go and let her body return to its true self. She felt empowered by it, the shield off her face and her body released. Dante started to step away from her,

but she put her long claws into his chest and felt his beating heart. When he cried out, she pulled his heart from his chest, feeling the power of it like a shock to her system.

“So pretty, don’t you think?” She wanted him to see her eating it, taking the still warm thing to her mouth, but he disappeared, just like the other two had. Frowning, she dusted the ash off her hands from his heart when it, too, was gone. “Did you honestly think that I’d tell you anything, you moron?”

Going to her lair, she put the things that she’d taken in the trash. Like her outing today, they’d been ruined by Dante and his news. She could think of any number of reasons that the Board was after her, but it didn’t really matter. Helenia lived by her own rules. And soon she’d be in charge of everything, including the humans, and it wouldn’t matter at all what they wanted. She looked at her calendar and realized how long it had been in years since that night. He would be ready for her now, her blood rendering him weak enough that she could take his seed.

It seemed longer when she thought of the last time that she’d seen him. An alpha. Watching him all night long with the people he’d traveled with, she knew that he was going to be the one to help her create an army of monsters like her. Helenia smiled. She was under no delusions that she was anything but a monster. She had worked hard in creating herself to be one. And now that she was perfect, she wanted to make more in her image. And the alpha was going to help her.

Everyone knew that wolves carried a gene that was far superior to any other shifter. Vampires had it as well, in great abundance. But a wolf also had the ability to shift and to be stronger still with his other beast. It was this beast, the wolf, that she was counting on. Her creations would be wolf beasts, and she would control them all.

Making her way to the labs that she’d set up years ago, she knew that the man she’d put there, Basil something, would still be sleeping. He’d been asking to go home; his family apparently couldn’t do anything without him there. And if anything had happened to him between then and now, she’d have to start all over. So putting him into a deep sleep had been better for everyone, mostly for her own peace of mind. And his family was no longer around to make demands on him, so that had been a plus for both of them.

As she made her way by one of the big buildings, she saw an ad in the window. Staring at it for a long time, she finally stopped someone to ask them the date. There was no way she’d messed up that badly.

“October tenth.” She told him to tell her the year and when he answered her, she nearly fell backward. It hadn’t been one year as she’d thought, but four. Fuck. There was no telling what her alpha had gotten into since then.

~~~

Noelle was intimidated by the big office, mostly because of the guards in the lobby. They were big and armed. Not that she planned on doing anything wrong, but she had a fear of men that were big.

But she was running out of time and this man, the one she was coming to see, had been the one that had come up on her search as the most trustworthy. She hoped so.

When she stood in front of the big desk, she had to clear her throat twice before she could make any sound come out of her mouth. Nerves were making her sick.

“I’d like to see Mr. Calhoun please.” The woman asked her if she had an appointment. “I do. For today at ten.”

It was just shy of nine, but Noelle hated to be late. When the woman asked her to have a seat and that she’d call him, Noelle went to sit on one of the big chairs that looked like a family of five could have used. She watched the people coming and going.

An older man came in and started talking loudly about the weather. She was sure that he talked that way all the time, loud and with a great deal of humor. And everyone here seemed to know him. He stopped by the desk as she had, but he wasn’t asked about appointments but sent up to the elevator with a smile. Noelle wanted someone to like her that way.

Noelle had, for the most part, been alone all her life. She worked and socialized when she had to, but she preferred her own company to that of other people. It more than likely was because of her family and the way that they’d jump out of the smallest places to hurt her.

When her name was called, Noelle made her way to the desk. It was just after nine-thirty by then, and she had to pee. But this had to be done today. Mr. Calhoun’s secretary said that this was his last appointment before December, and that would be too late. Going up in the elevator with the guard, she held tightly onto her plastic bag and hoped she was doing the right thing.

“Hello, Miss Alexander. Mr. Elijah Calhoun isn’t in yet, but his brother Trent is. He wanted to know if he could help you.” She knew that name as well. But he was no longer working here, she’d heard. Noelle asked her about it. “He helps out when necessary. And since Elijah is running slightly behind, he thought he’d help him out.”

Nodding, she was shown into a large office. As soon as she saw them, the older gentleman and the big man behind the desk, she wanted to run. They were too much and too big. Noelle turned to leave and the older man spoke.

“Come on now, sweetie. You’re not gonna deny an old man a chance to sit with a pretty girl, are you? And Trent here, he is just glad to see me today because he won’t have to eat all them delicious biscuits that his lovely wife made him. I’m his daddy, TJ Calhoun, and we’re about as harmless as they come.” She looked at him, then at the steaming plate on the desk. “Come on back and have a seat, and let us see what we can do for you.”

“I won some money.” She didn’t know why she’d blurted it out like that. Noelle had been holding that secret for five and a half months now. “I don’t want anyone to know that I did.”

“All right then. Why don’t you have a seat and we’ll figure this out?” Trent stood up, and she moved closer to the door behind her. When he sat down, she watched him carefully. “I won’t hurt you, Miss Alexander. I promise you that.”

Nodding but still not moving, she wondered why she was even doing this. She’d been making it on her own, without the money in her bag, for years now. This money, all of it that she’d won, would make it better for her, but she was terrified of what it might

bring too. But to have a house of her own with a yard was something that she’d been thinking about for years.

Making her way to the chair, she sat with her bag in her hand and tried to think. “I was sixteen when my stepfather left me at a party. He and my stepmother had other children of their own, and they felt that my check from the welfare office would suit them better if they didn’t have me around needing any of it. Sucking them dry is what they said I was doing to them.” She glanced at the elder Calhoun when he made a noise, and felt her face heat up. He asked her how she was both their stepchild. “My mom died after marrying him. Then he remarried a few months later and she had children of her own. I didn’t know it at the time, but they were his children, both of them. Ron is twenty now, and Daniel is two years older. I’m telling you this so you understand why I’m…I’m afraid, Mr. Calhoun. I don’t want them to come back and try to hurt me again.”

“You think they will?” She was sure of it and said as much. “I see. And this money that you won. I’m assuming that it’s a great deal. That it’s not just a scratch offs.”

“I have those as well. When I would win some money, I would put it back in an envelope until it was close to expiring. I never cashed it all in, just enough to get by on. It was my emergency money, I guess. Every week I would buy one scratch off and one of the bigger lottery money tickets. I haven’t stopped that since I won. The article I read at the library said to go about your business like nothing happened. So I did.” He asked her how much she’d won. “The Powerball. I won the one from five and a half months ago.”

Neither of them said anything for several seconds. Then TJ laughed, and looked at his son when Trent asked him what was going on. His dad was still laughing as he explained to Trent.

“She won the big one. The forty-million-dollar jackpot, didn’t you, love?” She nodded and dug the tickets that she wanted to cash in from her bag. “Holy milk balls, Trent, she’s the winner that they’ve all been looking for.”

She looked at Trent when he asked her if that was true. “Yes. I won and I have to turn in my ticket or it’s going to go away.” He took the envelopes that she’d put into the plastic bag she used as a purse most of the time. It was all she had to carry it around in, and felt silly for it being so mundane. “I read about your firm at the library and everyone said that you can be trusted. I don’t want anyone to know who I am.”

“All right, let me look a few things up here. Just…I have to call in our attorney to help me get this right for you.” She shook her head, but he said it would be fine. “It’s my brother, Tanner Calhoun. Did you read about him too?”

“Please don’t make fun of me.” She wanted to snatch her things back from him, but he stood up again and she sat still. “I’ve never hurt anyone. I work and keep to myself and don’t bother any of them. But they come and take whatever I have on me and then beat me for it. I’m not sure what they’d do about this money. More than likely kill me.” She looked at them both before speaking again. “I’ve changed my mind. I don’t want the money.”

When he sat in the chair next to her, she whimpered. Men, big ones, scared her. Trent didn’t move, but TJ got up and walked out of the room. She had no idea what he was

going to do, probably call the police now that they had her tickets, but she didn’t care. She wanted to go back to her place.

“You say your family takes your money and they hurt you? Have you ever called the police? Filed a report on them? We can do that now if you want, Noelle. I can do it for you.” His voice was soft, full of something that she’d never heard from anyone when they were talking to her. Compassion. “Tell me so that I can find them and beat the living shit out of them. My wife, Joe? She’ll have to visit me in jail, but I think she’ll think it was worth it to see you safe.” She laughed when he did. “There you go. See, I might be big, but I’m as gentle as a puppy.”

“My stepfather is Howard Merrill. My stepmother wasn’t any better. Her name was Gloria Merrill, but she died a few years back. I think she was in a car accident or something. I can’t afford the newspaper all the time.” She looked at Trent and felt…she wasn’t sure what she felt except no longer afraid, for some reason. “He thinks I made him lose his job. I guess in a way I did. But when he lost his job, he lost everything else too. Like my government money. He didn’t get his pension either, which I suppose is the way it should be with him being fired and all.”

“You think that he’ll try to take your money that you won.” She nodded, then shook her head. “Ah, so you think that he’ll take your life while he’s at it.”

“He will. Like I said, he feels that I owe him for some reason. He’s not been happy with me for a long time.” That was an understatement. “I have a place that I’ve been living in for a while. But I want my own home. A yard. I really want a yard.”

“I understand that more than you can imagine. I’ve talked to…had my dad talk to Tanner, and he’s on his way in. He works for a friend of ours, but he said he’d help us out. I know investments better than I do the letter of the law for this sort of thing. And my wife is coming in as well. She said that she was going to come by today, and she should be here soon. I want to try and get this worked out for you so that you can get you a house as well as be safe.”

“I know what you are.” He said nothing, and she looked at her hands in her lap. “I know that you and your family are wolves. I can’t always tell what a person is, but I can tell when someone isn’t human. I am, but I know that you’re not.”

“No, I’m not. Are you…is that why you’re afraid of me? Is your stepfather a wolf?” She shook her head and told him that her family was human as well. “But one of them hurt you, a wolf or some other shifter.”

“Yes.” He didn’t pry, and she didn’t feel it was necessary to explain. He was going to help her get her money, and that would be the end of their relationship. “There are other tickets too. Not as much as the big one, but I’d like to have that money as well. It’s what I can pay you with.”

“I’m not going to charge you for helping you, Miss Alexander. I think you’ve been hurt enough.” She wanted to cry, to beg him to hold her. There was something so comforting about him that she wanted to let him take care of her. But she knew better than to trust that kind of feeling. “Tanner is here. I don’t want you to be alarmed when he comes in. He has a tendency to not knock, but to come in like he’s been shot from a rocket.”

The door to the office slammed back against the wall. The man who came into the room was talking, as if whatever conversation he’d been having with Trent the last time he’d seen him was still going on. He spoke to Trent about changes in the market and how he was getting his office set up slowly. He looked at her and stopped talking.

“Well, hello there. Aren’t you about the prettiest little thing?” She shook her head and felt her fear double. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to embarrass you. But you are very pretty. I’m Tanner Calhoun. Trent said you need someone to advise you on some lottery winnings.”

When he sat down on the edge of the desk, she had a feeling that Trent had told him to back off. Tanner grinned at her before he asked her about the ticket. She knew then that she might be able to do this. These men wasted no time in getting to the point.

After he was shown the ticket, he asked her a lot of questions about it. The other tickets, mounting to just under ten thousand dollars, were given to the secretary to verify. Tanner said it wasn’t as if they didn’t trust her, but they wanted to make sure they weren’t going to have any problems when they were taken in. The big ticket was put in a safe so that no one could take it from her now that a few people knew about it. A copy of it was made for her to keep, as well as a receipt stating that they had it in their safe for her.

“Does your stepfather have any idea that you’ve got any money? I mean, from your winnings? Did he lend you money for anything? Pay your rent somewhere, or any of your bills? At any time, did anyone help you out with a bill or something?” She told Tanner no, that she didn’t tell anyone. “And your bills? You paid those with your own money, nothing ever coming from him?”

“I’ve made sure that I made my own way. I’ve never been on welfare either…I promised myself that I’d be independent as much as I could. And my stepfather was better at taking than he was at giving. Never the tickets. I never had them on me when they, my stepbrothers or him, found me.” She looked at her hands again. “My stepbrothers weren’t like that when I lived at home with them. They were spoiled, but they never bothered me. I’m still not sure that they do this because they want to.”

“I’m sorry about that. No one should treat anyone badly, especially not a female. But knowing that about him makes it so much easier now. And the fact that you bought it after you left home and were out of his care means he has no claims on it at all. Those are things that I want to keep from happening.”

For the next hour she went over the paperwork. By the time she was finished, not only was she exhausted, but she was also richer. The money from the tickets had been taken all over town and cashed in by different members of the family, so that nothing was ever going to come back on her. She’d never had so much cash on her at any time in her life. And then Joe, Trent’s wife, showed up.

“Hello, Noelle. It’s been a very long time.” Noelle looked at the door, then back at the woman who had been there the day she’d been kicked out of her family. “Don’t. Please don’t run. Noah will be so happy to see you.”

“He won’t.” Joe said that he would. “I hurt him that day. He might…he’ll want to hurt me back.”

“No, he won’t. He looked for you for years after you left. And he’ll be glad to see you, I promise.” She looked at the door again, wondering if it was too late to take it all back. “I know your scent now, Noelle. You won’t be able to hide again. But I promise you, Noah never wanted you hurt by this either. I’m not sure how you think you hurt him, but I’ve spoken to him. He’s glad to know that you’ve come back around.”

Terror like she’d not felt for a very long time skimmed along her skin. Her hands hurt from clenching them. Her head hurt from trying to sort through all the things that were running through her head. She’d hurt Noah because her father had been an important man in his business. Howard had told her that when and if he ever found her that Noah would make her pay for making one of his best employees have to be fired.

The door opened again and she screamed. She had no idea who might have come in or why, but her terror was too much. And when someone grabbed her, Noelle lost whatever hold she had on her fear, and the darkness swallowed her up.

Andrew Book Five Lanning’s Leap Series Release Day 4/4/16

Andrew Lanning was happy when they shut down the family search and rescue business. He hated it because it was rarely ever a rescue, just bodies and that was too depressing. But now he had to find something else to do. Being a man of leisure left him too much time to get into trouble, so he purchased a floundering cable company to occupy his time. But when he started poking around the business, the things he found made no sense. The sales, all of them, stemmed from one computer and there were over a hundred employees….
Laci Wintermute was caught in the middle of what she thought was a grocery store robbery, but found out quickly that she was the target of the would be robbers all along. What she couldn’t figure out was why. And those idiots weren’t the only ones after her either, they didn’t seem to stop coming. So she did the only thing she knew to do―she ran. She ran until she ran out of money, acquired an assumed name and took a job at a small cable company….
The fate, Sonya, was determined to destroy the Lanning family, even from the grave….

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Prologue
18 Months Ago
Laci looked in her rearview mirror and let out a long sigh. Finally, her aunt was asleep. She wasn’t sure how much more she could take of her maiden aunt traveling with her, but she’d not been able to leave her behind and Laci wasn’t sure that either of them would have survived had they not had each other to depend on. Not that her aunt was all that helpful, but she was her responsibility.
The trip—it had really only started out as a small trip—had been to go to the market. It had turned into a nightmarish run across the states. That had been eleven days ago. Much longer than she wanted to think about moving so far from her job, her home, and everything she’d left behind. But there wasn’t any way for her to stay there when people were trying to kill her.
Laci had arrived home that day to see her aunt sitting outside of the house in her wheelchair with her pocket book on her lap. Not a purse but a pocket book. She needed to run into town for a bit. Just to pick up her prescription, she’d told Laci, and a gallon of milk. Laci had no idea how her aunt drank so much milk, but every day her aunt would either have her pick some up on her way home or she would meet her, as she had that day, ready to go get it. More often than not, even if she called home to see if there was anything her aunt Jeanie needed, they’d end up making a trip out of the house to get milk and just one or two other things.
The store had been crowded. The holidays were over, but it was the first of the month. Never a good time to go to a store, and certainly not a good time to be out and about for any reason. Her aunt Jeanie never cared if Laci had to park in the far lot. Her chair was her throne, and she didn’t care how far Laci had to cart the groceries.
Laci remembered thinking that she was glad then that she’d cashed her check. Aunt Jeanie got her pension each month, but as far as Laci knew she never spent any of it. Certainly not around the house for things so mundane as food and power, anyway. Laci was paying for everything, including her aunt’s medical bills that her insurance didn’t cover, as well as any personal things that she needed. Laci was making it each month, but it had been getting harder and harder to make ends meet. Then they’d gone to the store.
The cart was being pushed around by her aunt in one of those electric chairs. Aunt Jeanie loved it, Laci knew. Riding around without having to struggle with her wheels on her own put her in a particularly good mood that day. Laci also thought that her aunt used the time at the store as a social thing, being that she pretty much stayed at the house while Laci worked all the time. They were just rounding the canned vegetable aisle when the cart stopped moving.
“Is it the battery?” Laci had no idea and said that to her. “Perhaps that’s it. The battery. Go and find me someone that can change it out, or you can go out and get my own chair. I need to be here for a bit longer…to get the things that we need. You’ll have to push me if you do that. We only need a few things.”
“I’ll find someone.” As she eyed the cart with over a dozen un-needed items in it, Laci wondered how the hell this had happened every time. Each time they only needed milk, the grocery bill would amount to right around fifty bucks. It would be more if there were only a few items in addition to the milk.
Laci only wanted to go home, put her feet up, and take a short nap before she had to go back to her other job. Life was decidedly harder since her parents had died and she’d taken over the care of Aunt Jeanie. Laci made her way to the front of the store when she realized how quiet it was.
She was nearly halfway up the aisle to the front desk when she saw the two men. One of them had a mask on; the other was standing with his back to her. But he wasn’t covering his face. It took her several seconds of just standing there to realize that he was holding someone in front of him and he had a gun to their head. Moving to the back of the aisle again, she never turned but backed up one step at a time, keeping her eyes on the two men. She needed to get to her purse and her phone where her aunt was to call the police.
“Going somewhere?” The blunt end of something touching the back of her neck had her stilling. The man, because there was no doubt it was a man, laughed. “Come on now. You want to join the party, don’t you?”
“Not particularly.” He hit her with the gun but only hard enough to make her see stars and not knock her out. Moving when he gave her a shove, Laci tried to think. “If you’re robbing the place, you’d be better off just leaving the customers alone. The only reason that most of them are here is because it’s the first of the month.”
“We don’t really care about the money. There is something more here that we’re to pick up. A bigger pay off.” She nodded and stopped when they reached the offices. “Stand still and I won’t kill you right now.”
The office, really just an open area that sat about two feet higher off the floor than the rest of the store, was full of people when she was shoved into it. There was a wraparound desk in it, a safe that was currently closed, as well as four people standing and three sitting with their hands on their heads. Two were bleeding out on the floor, and Laci could see that they weren’t going to make it. Laci looked around for her aunt. Thankfully, she wasn’t anywhere near here.
Laci took a quick inventory of the men holding guns. Two had handguns, one a rifle, and the other one was behind her still, and she knew that he had a gun but nothing more. The odds were too great for her to get brave, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t going to jump if the opportunity presented itself. She’d been trained in hand-to-hand combat, how to use a gun, and to know when to stand back and let the chips fall.
One of Laci’s jobs was that of a security officer. The other two—one an antique buyer, the other a sales associate that sold grave plots to people—did not help her as well right now as the first one did. She knew the make and model of the gun, the kind of ammo it held, as well as how many shots it would fire before it would need a new clip. She also knew that it would do a world of hurt on anyone that was on the receiving end of it. Death would be about the only option should it hit you in any major part of the body. The man behind her spoke finally, and they all turned toward her.
“Found this one wandering around the store. I thought we put them all in the freezer. But here she is, right here just out in the open for us. This is her, right?” That explained the quietness of the store, Laci thought. But she had no idea what he meant by singling her out. “We got what we came for, so we can leave now, right?”
“I have a suggestion.” She was hit in the head again. “That fucking hurt. Stop doing that and I won’t have to hurt you.”
He laughed again, which she figured he was justified in doing since he had the gun. Laci was tall, lanky, and looked like a good wind would blow her over. But she was strong, agile, as well as trained to take on the bad guys when necessary. When he hit her again, she’d had enough.
Grabbing his arm, she flipped him over her head and then used the momentum to jerk his arm around and snap it. As he was screaming at her, she used his own finger to shoot and kill the mask wearing guy and then hit the other one before he had a chance to fire back. As she ran for cover, shooting the man on the floor once in the head, she made her way to the back again.
Her aunt was just where she’d left her, sitting in the aisle with a broken chair. But she had a man holding a gun to her head when Laci slid to a stop at the end of the aisle. Laci had started for her when a bullet whizzing by her had her ducking for cover again. It more than likely had been the injured man from the front offices. Laci dove behind the meat counter just as the man with her aunt came after her.
Laci sat here, her back to the counter, and thought about what the fuck had just happened. Robbery. That was clear, but why wait until now, when the store was over crowded with people to pull it off? And what had they meant when they said that they’d gotten what they came for? Checking the clip in her gun, she’d nearly wet herself when one of the men laughed close to her.
“Laci? Where are you? Come on out now. We just wanna talk to you.” Laci had thought her grandmother had given them her name when the man continued and wondered why she’d do that. “Come on now, don’t make it harder on yourself. We know that you’re her. Someone told us you were gonna be here, and damned if they weren’t right this time. We kept missing you before. But I have to tell you, the lure of making some extra cash on this by robbing the place is gonna work out so much better for us. This way they’ll think it a simple job, and the fact that you were our intended prize won’t ever come out.”
She had wanted to ask them what the hell they wanted her for, but she heard the sirens at the front of the store again. The men started cursing, and she waited there. One of them surely was going to finish the job. And when he’d come through the swinging doors at her, she fired four times before she saw him fall back. The police were the next to talk to her, telling her to drop her weapon.
“You should have stayed there and let them talk to you. Those men weren’t gonna hurt you none.” Her aunt was awake apparently and still fussing with her over things. “What harm could it have done you to talk to the police either? Then I’d not be sitting here with my ass hurting like it is.”
“I’m sure that had they killed you, you’d be bitching about that too.” Aunt Jeanie huffed at her. “The police were not who they said they were. I’ve told you that like fifty times already. They weren’t cops.”
“So you keep telling me. He was in a uniform, wasn’t he? What else was he supposed to be?” Laci said nothing, the story too old for her to care to repeat herself now. “And now they’re all looking for you and you’re gonna drag me along with you.”
“Thanks, Aunt Jeanie. I’m so glad that you care so very little about what happens to me. And I’ve told you, several times now, that I can drop you off anywhere you want. Just say the word.” Another huff. “No? Then I would suggest, since you made me go to the store in the first place, that you keep your mouth shut.”
It really wasn’t her aunt’s fault that those men were chasing her. But blaming her would keep her off her back for a little while, and Laci wanted the quiet time. There had been little to none of that as they’d set out on this mad dash for safety.
When she’d traveled as far as she could for one night, Laci pulled into a rest stop and parked the car. She was broke. All the money she’d had on her was now gone. Her credit cards weren’t safe, not that she could use them with them all maxed out like they were. And Laci had watched enough television to know that not just the good guys could track that, but the bad ones as well. Until she could figure out what the hell was going on, she wasn’t trusting anyone.
Closing her eyes, Laci tried to relax enough that she could sleep for a little bit before moving again. But almost as soon as she drifted off, she saw the face of the “cop” when he’d told her to kick her gun to him.
“I’m not going to hurt you, Laci.” It had taken her almost too long to realize that there wasn’t any way for him to know her name. “Come on, miss. Just toss the gun this way and we’ll get you out of here before those men return.”
“Will they?” He nodded and looked to his right. She couldn’t have seen what was behind him, but she had a feeling that she might not want to know anyway. “Did you have back up coming? If so, I’d really like to wait for them.”
“They’re dead.” He grinned at her when she asked him who. “You are too smart and that might get you hurt. Why can’t you just do as you’re told and come out of there and let us get on with the day?”
“I think you’re not an officer, are you?” He shook his head and moved into the room, pointing the gun at her. “What is going on? Why are you looking for me?”
“I was just told to find you, kill you, and then bring your dead carcass to them.” She asked him who again. “Don’t know his name. But you’re too valuable, he told us, to leave running around like you are. Come on now, you can’t kill me. I’ve done not one thing to hurt you.”
Laci had had a feeling that there might have been a “yet” at the end of his statement, but a sound behind him had him turning and her firing at the same time. The bullet had caught him in the shoulder, and he fired twice before she managed to kill him.
Laci opened her eyes when she saw the man’s face in her memories, the neat little hole in the center of his forehead where she’d hit him. Calming her heart down again, she wondered what kind of prison terms she’d get for killing three people, all of them bad
guys. She sat there, staring off into the dark, and tried to think what had made anyone want to kill her. Shifting on the seat so she could lie down, Laci felt the overwhelming urge to cry. Not that it had done her any good so far, but that didn’t lessen her need to do it.

Elam Dragon Saviors Release Blitz & Winner Announced 3/21/16

Ariannona has but one simple task to complete and the long journey she began 3000 years ago will be ended. Her reward? She was promised that she would see the king and queen again.

Elam’s not sure what to think about the beautiful woman coming back to the house with his counterpart Casdon. She has a message for Casdon alone, and the message itself makes no sense to Casdon. One thing is clear though, she is Elam and Casdon’s mate.

Ariannona expects to die once her message is delivered, and isn’t happy to learn that the former king and queen tricked her to get her there.

A dragon hunter is still loose on nearby lands and none of the dragons are safe, especially Casdon. He’s taking shots at anything he sees moving.



WINNER OF THE MYSTERY PAPERBACK IS   Robin  Dennison 
  Robin  Dennison 
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Prologue
“And you’ll do this for us? For me?” The king wasn’t so sure he wanted to trust her. Ariannona had been known to be somewhat flighty, and while she was a good person most of the time, he knew that she had bouts of behavior that got her into trouble. Anthony looked at Eve when she cleared her throat. She had to do this; life needed to be taken care of.
“What he’s trying so hard not to do is tell you that we think you a bit off your head. But we know that it is only a front, is it not?” Eve smiled at him as she continued. “Anthony, she needs to know that we’re not taken in by her ways. Try not to be so kingie and tell her we trust her.”
Before he could voice his concerns, Ariannona spoke again, eyeing him like she knew what he was thinking. “You’ve asked me here for a favor. But you’ve yet to tell me how I will be able to do this. My lady, I know not of some of the things you’re telling me.” Anthony thought that she’d done it on purpose, adding the title to his lady wife. She wanted them to think that she’d forgotten that they were king and queen. “I’m but a person. No real magic, nothing to show for what I’ve been able to conjure. You know as well as I that though I am a witch of good standing, I’m not all that powerful. What you’re asking me to do is well beyond my realm of knowledge, as I have said. Several times now.”
“Come to me, Ariannona.” Instead of doing what his lady wife commanded her to do, the witch took several steps back. “I wish to give you a gift, one that will help you with the task I have set before you.” Her head was shaking hard now, as if she knew what was coming would change her forever.
And it would. Their hope and that of their children depended on this woman to do just what they told her. Asked of her. When she took another step back, Anthony had to fight hard with his frustrations. She had to do this.
“I have no wish of your magic, my lady. It is all that I can do to keep my own powers safely behind my teeth. And you know as well as I that I have been in trouble enough with it.” Anthony nodded, knowing just how hard it was at times to keep your true self hidden. “And this thing you wish for me to do? I don’t understand. You wish for me to visit your children, to give them a message, when there are no children of you. Or so we have been led to believe. And if there are said children, why are you not giving them the message on your own? There are many things that are not answered, and many more questions coming to me that I fear the answer to.”
Anthony looked at his wife. Their children, six wonderful sons, had been born just that morning. They were hidden deep within the mountains to keep them safe. He and his lady wife knew that in a short time all that they were would be taken from them if things continued, including their lives. When Eve nodded at him, he got down off his chair and moved to stand with young Ariannona. There were spies everywhere, he knew this. It was going to be their downfall.
“They are born. Six of them. They are hidden well but will be harmed, more than likely killed, should we announce their arrival.” Ariannona nodded and he did as well. Tears, useless ones that he’d shed too often of late, filled his eyes and he continued. Emotions did not set well with a king, but a father could shed them freely. “Our lives will be taken, as will the castle, and without the help of a few magical beings as yourself, they will not have the tools that they’ll need to care for each other. Much is at stake, Ariannona. More than we have time to explain to you now.”
“And you think that I can take it to them. This message and favor you ask of me.” Anthony nodded and kept an eye on his wife as she moved to stand behind the young witch. “You think…you said that your life will be taken with the castle. How is that possible when it is as magical as you? When the walls are forged of the greatest stones? Your men, they would die for you. Some even have.”
“And they will, all of them. The castle will be great again one day, the magic restored with each new stone. But without your help, I’m afraid that all will be lost to all of us.” Ariannona nodded and looked around the great hall. He wondered what she was thinking, what she might see that they had missed. “We need to give you a part of ourselves so that you can give them our message.”
“And this part of you, it will give me what?” Anthony looked at his Eve, and she smiled sadly at him. “I don’t think you’re allowed to give me more magic. I have to earn that. And I am not able to do much because I’m not strong, like others. And to be honest with you, my king, I’m not so sure I’d like to be stronger than I am right now.”
“You will have the gift of immortality. And of some magic that we can give you. Mostly knowledge. And as you get older, more will come to you naturally.” Ariannona nodded and looked at Eve as she explained. “You must work hard while you wait for them. Stay out of trouble too. And when you do find them, I shall ask that you tell them how much we loved them.”
“It will be long in coming, this message that you ask me to give to them. And a favor of some worth that you think I should take to them that you would trust me with it. That’s why I need this gift; I will need the immortality in order to pass it to them.” Anthony nodded when Eve did. “I think you jest with me. I don’t think you tell me a falsehood, for I know you to be true. But this cannot be right. I think you have chosen the wrong person. Perhaps…perhaps you should ask Helena. She is a much stronger witch than I. Or Caroline. I know that both are used to magic and are very powerful.”
“They have their tasks to do. And neither of you are to interfere with the other’s set upon path. You may talk, converse, but never engage in any of their magic that might have to do with the castle or the people there.” Anthony thought that was a good way to put things and admired his wife. But if only Ariannona could kill the witch, things would be so much the better even now. Well, that wasn’t to be either. Things needed to progress. As they were set to do.
The door to the chamber they were in was banged upon. When Ariannona turned to look, he and his lovely bride of centuries past touched the younger woman at the same time. The ploy worked. She was distracted and they moved. Time was running short and they needed her to help them.
Her scream tore through him. He knew that it wasn’t pain…well, perhaps a little of it was, but mostly it was the magic that filled her up that had her screaming. Magic that she would need to keep alive, and a message, the favor that they asked of her to give to his son. A son he’d never meet.
Pain entered his heart. So much was going to be lost to them. He wasn’t a man who dwelled much on what he could not control, but this, this was something that would pain him until his last breath. His children would never know him. He’d never see them grow into men. Anthony would not even lay to rest near his own beloved.
As they laid Ariannona gently to the floor, her body quiet now that they were no longer filling her needs, they watched her carefully as her body took on a different look. He’d known it
would happen, that she’d change, but he’d not known that it would do this to her. The magic would take as much as it gave to her.
Where her hair had been short, chopped no doubt by her own hand, it grew out long, well past her hips, he’d bet. And instead of the dark color that it had been, it was now white. Not a gray that it might have been with age, but as white as the snow that covered the ground even now. When she opened her eyes without moving, he could see the change in her eyes too. Gone were the brown they were before. They were the most startling color of silver that Anthony had ever seen. Magic danced in them even as she lay so still, almost in death. But he could see the snap of her anger even without her words.
“You did that a-purpose.” He nodded. Still she hadn’t moved, but they watched her. “I feel…I think to say I feel good, but it’s so much more than that, isn’t it?”
“You are of a good health and have much more magic, not in all things but a good deal more than you had before. Or would have ever had should you have lived out your normal life.” She asked him how long that might have been. “You would have been gone from this world today, as soon as you had stepped from the castle if you had told us no. It was the reason for the urgency.”
Ariannona sat up slowly. He did not reach to help her, his own magic still there to share with her, but she seemed to understand and did not scold him when he did not. She was standing tall. He nodded to her when she ran her hands down her tattered clothing and it changed as she did. She would learn what she could do quickly now, her body humming of the power within her.
The clothing was gone, in its place a dress of white…as white as her hair had become. The only show of color on any of her was her lips, and they were as blood red as she was white. He laughed when Ariannona snapped her fingers and a single flower, a beautiful blue rose, appeared. After sniffing the fragrant flower, she put it on her shoulder, over her heart, and looked at them.
“You have given me a great deal, more than you wished, haven’t you?” Eve, his queen and hers, nodded. “And this favor. What is it that you wish for me to tell your sons?”
Anthony nodded. It was done. And in a few thousand years, more than he could think on, this woman would be as important to his sons and their counterparts as she was to them at this moment. As Eve told her what she was to tell them, Anthony moved to his chair. His sons…as before, all he thought of was the loss.
He’d never see them grown, not even see them born. He and his wife, they would not see them darken the skies with their wings, not see them find their way in life. Not be there to guide them should they need it. Anthony would miss holding them in his arms, seeing them take their first steps, their first flight. They were going to miss it all if things, as they stood now, were not to change. He looked at Eve when she sat beside him. The woman, Ariannona the witch, was now gone.
“She will be a fine addition to them.” He nodded, his heart too tender to speak of it. “Perhaps all of this perpetration, it is for naught. Perhaps the other will not bring us to ruin.”
“You know as well as I that it is set in motion. That when the new storm blows, things will be out of our hands. People, our people, will rise against us. We will be no more. I know not when, but we do know that it will happen. I only wish that you could live, to be there with our children.” She told him what she’d been saying for centuries, that she could not live without him. “I love you, my wife. With all that I am.”
“And I love you, he who holds all that I am.” She laid her head on his shoulder, and he held her. “My heart breaks for them all. I know that…while we have done all that we can to help them, I still think we have missed more than we can know.”
“We will put others in place. People, dragons that will know what we have tried to do and the why of it.” He felt her nod and wrapped his arm around her tighter. “I shall miss them, all the people here, the ones to come and the people we are begging for help.”
“Jacob and Sally, they will be good to them. Care for them while we cannot. We have chosen well in them. You think?” He nodded. Just as she was to tell him more, things she had said to him over the last weeks, a storm blew into their windows and over their bodies. He was sure that Eve could smell the black magic as well as he could. “It has begun.”
“It has.”
There was no hope for it now. Things, as they had seen, were now coming. Their deaths, while not how they would die but that they would, had been shown to them. He held her while the storm, a great monster of a thing, blew around the castle walls and into their broken hearts.