Brayden The Stanton Pack Release Day & Giveaway

Dane had no idea who she was. She’d been shot and couldn’t even remember who she was hiding from. All she did know was she needed help, and when Julian Stanton found her, he took her to his family.

Brayden Stanton was just tired of everything. It was time to leave Africa and go home to family. He called his dad to tell him that he was fed up with the job and he was on his way home, and he was bringing a fiancée with him. She wasn’t his mate, but he was going to make it work. He realized his mistake the moment he proposed.

Danger comes at every turn. The women in Brayden’s life are surrounded with it. Both are lethal, but one has Brayden’s heart from the beginning. The question is, can the family survive it?

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Chapter 1  
She sat up, then promptly leaned over and threw up twice. The first time she’d woken up, her head had hurt so badly she was sure something was stabbing her there. But one touch to her head had her fainting away again. Lying back down, she lay there trying to make the sick feeling in her head go away. Touching it gingerly, she felt the blood there again and the slice along her head, but there wasn’t any memory of how it had gotten there. Nor—and this frightened her more than the head wound did—who or where she was.  Jane Doe. That’s what she’d been referring to herself as since she’d awoken the second time. It had been dark where she first holed up. Not that the daylight she had now made things any clearer for her. Looking around from her position on the floor, she realized that she might be in some really old building that hadn’t seen a broom or dust rag in a very long time. Slowly she rolled to her back, closing her eyes so she wouldn’t get sick again. “You need help, girl.” She had also started talking to herself, she realized, and wondered if that was new or something she did all the time. Asking herself questions about the things she did know about herself didn’t ring any bells either, but she listed them now. “You’ve been shot and wounded. You’re female, and you’re smart enough to know that hiding out was the best course of action for yourself. And you carry a gun.” She wrapped her fingers around the gun that hadn’t left her side since she woke, and found it tucked tightly against her belly. It didn’t feel foreign to her, but like something that she wore as routinely as she did a shirt or socks. There was a holster for it, but the gun hadn’t been in it like it was now. Leather and steel, it had been strapped to her waist with one full magazine. Searching for any kind of identification hadn’t netted her anything. She had found a wound in her leg that had bothered her for a little bit, but not nearly like her head did. As she lay there, she thought of what could have happened to her and why. What was she that would make someone shoot her? Jane didn’t want to think that someone was out to kill her, not yet at any rate. “Was I a victim of a robbery gone bad? But if someone robbed me, wouldn’t they have taken the gun too?” Her head began to pound again so she left that thought alone for now. “I need to get someone to help me. But who?” Sitting up slowly, she felt her belly lurch again. Whatever had happened to her, it wasn’t going to get any better by just sitting around waiting to have some sort of epiphany. She had a feeling that when she did recall what had gone down, she wasn’t going to be any happier than she was with not remembering.  Standing was harder than sitting up, she soon discovered. Hanging onto the walls for support, her knees were weak and her hands shook. She could only hope that she was on a lower floor in the building, because she was sure that she’d never make stairs work for her. And when she saw them, all four flights, she sobbed like a baby. Nothing, she realized, was going to be easy about this. At least there was a handrail. 
She had no idea how long it took, but she was on the last level when she heard cars. No people as yet…she’d not encountered anyone on her way down. She had to rest, so crawling behind the stairs, she found a nice cubbyhole and closed her eyes. It might be just a few feet from her, but freedom and perhaps answers were going to have to wait. She was simply too weak to walk even the few feet to the door. What if—and this had bothered her with each landing that she’d encountered—what if they were just waiting for her to come out so they could finish the job? Darkness was coming on once again when she woke. She was getting sicker. Her belly was empty of whatever had been in it before, but it didn’t stop her from throwing up. The bile was hot, and she was getting weaker each time she got sick. Help was going to have to come soon or she knew she’d be dead. Standing this time took her to the floor again. On her knees, all she could think about was that she was going to die, right here, and no one would ever know…if there was anyone to mourn her death. Lying down, Jane closed her eyes and rested. It was nearing light again when she finally made her way out of the building. Her sleep had been fitful and unrestful, but she wasn’t as sick this time when she moved. It was either because she was too far gone or she was getting better, which she doubted.  There wasn’t anyone around except for a single truck that was idling nearby. As she staggered to the street, holding onto the walls as she went, she wondered who would be stupid enough to let a nice vehicle like that sit running unattended. Just as she was going to step out of the alley she was in, a slamming door had her turning to look. It was too fast. Her head spun dizzily and she nearly fell again. As she held on to the overturned trash can beside her, she tried breathing in her nose and out of her mouth to slow the pain down, as well as to keep her belly from churning up again. For whatever reason the thought of being caught—at what she had no idea—but being caught or captured terrified her. “Miss? Are you all right?” She wanted to scream at him that she wasn’t fucking all right, but just nodded. “I’m sorry, but I don’t think you are. Did you know that you’re bleeding from your head and leg?” “It won’t stop. Every time I wake up, it’s bleeding again.” He might have said something, but she had to puke again and gagged twice before she laid down. “I think I’m dying.” “I’m going to call an ambulance.” She screamed no at him, but must have blacked out for a bit. When she woke this time, she was in a moving vehicle. “You fainted, so I thought it was the perfect opportunity to get you to someone. But I won’t call the police. I have no idea why I didn’t, but I wanted you to know that.” “I don’t know who I am.” Trust. She didn’t have any clue why she trusted this man, but she did. “I don’t know where I am, how I got here, or how I was hurt. I’m at your mercy, it seems.” “Julian. Julian Stanton.” She asked him who that was. “Sorry. Me. I’m Julian Stanton. I’m taking you to my home…well, to my parents’ home. My father is a doctor. Retired now, but a good surgeon. I let him know what was going on about the wound, as well as that you seemed to be dead set against hospitals. He also knows that you’re carrying.” 
She touched her fingers to the gun still in the holster. Touching it, like that man did, it gave her trust. Again, she had no idea why she did, but she laid her head back to rest. The trip didn’t seem to take all that long, but she might have been out for a lot longer than she’d thought. Three men were standing on the front porch when she arrived at the house with Julian. Before he opened the door or they moved, he pointed out who they were. Two brothers and a father. Then when they moved toward her and the truck, she cringed when they started to reach for her. “Let me give you something for the pain.” The elderly man smiled at her. “It’ll take you under for a bit, but that’ll be fine while I exam you for injuries. You can trust us, young lady. We’ll not harm you.” The pinch of the needle didn’t hurt, but almost as soon as he rubbed the cotton ball over where he’d injected her, Jane felt herself floating away. It was the best she’d felt since she’d awoken. Flashes of light moved over her. Strong voices were there, but no words that she could understand. And on top of it all, a woman. Her kind voice made Jane feel like she’d been bathed in sunshine. Then there was nothing. ~~~ Denny waited for his wife, Lucy, to come and assist him while Julian filled him in on what had happened and why he’d brought her to their home. Denny checked the woman’s head injury, and wasn’t surprised to find it was a bullet wound. After cleaning it as gently as he could, he started to cut away her clothing. The gun perplexed him for a few moments, but Colton, his other son who had helped bring the young lady in, removed it from her and said he’d put it in the safe for her. Next, Denny removed her shoes, socks, and another weapon inside those. Whoever she was, she was well armed. “I just heard from a man by the name of Wexton. I believe he runs the grocery store…or perhaps the library. They’re all running together lately. Anyway, I have no idea why he’d think we have anything to do with this, but he said that someone is camping out in one of the buildings in the market district. I said that Julian checked it out today and it’s nothing.” After Lucy pulled on gloves, she stood over the young woman. “Do we know anything?” “Not as yet. At least not much. GSW to the head, but I think there will be more. There is blood on her pant legs as well as her hands. I was just going to take a look now.” She helped him pulled off the tattered clothing he’d cut away. He noted the wounds they found as they took off her shirt. “Bullet on her shoulder. It looks like it might have been done before the other things, superficial. There is some bruising on her belly; boot print, it looks to be.”  Denny, with the help of Lucy, rolled the young woman to her side. Her back was covered in scars that looked as if she’d been beaten, and repeatedly. There were a few more markings, none that he could recognize right off the top of his head. But as there was nothing life threatening, he moved to her pants. His wife took over there for him so that he could stitch up her head. He was just starting when he felt Lucy’s fear and stepped back from his patient. 
“Denny, what is that?” He looked where she was pointing, careful of his hands. He had to look at it very hard until what it was came to him. He took another step back and tried to think beyond the fear. “Tell me.” “I’ve not see this mark on someone in…. I was a boy and my father had been working with one of the women in the village. He said that she was the devil’s handmaiden. Of course, as a child I believed him. But later, after doing some research, I found out that they’re people marked by another tribe…that they were supposed to be unworthy.” She asked him of what. “I don’t know. That’s all I could find. If she’s been marked like this, Lucy, she might be older than she looks. I mean, as in decades older.” “What is she doing around here?” He said that he didn’t know. “Well, we’ll fix her up, get some answers, and if we don’t like them, we’ll take care of her.” “Take care…what do you mean, take care of her? You’re not suggesting that we murder this poor child, are you?” She just stared at him with that look she reserved for their sons. “Lucy, explain yourself, please.” “Take care of her as in taking care of her. Make sure that she’s safe, well, and fed. Whatever made your mind rush to us killing her off? My goodness, Denny, you need to stop listening to those stories on the television set. Goodness gracious.”  He said he didn’t think it was that but a book he’d been reading, and moved to finish her head. “I knew I shouldn’t have gone to bed straight away after reading that book. I swear to you, Lucy, that author has some chilling thoughts going on in his head.” She told him to not read it at all. “It’s good. I want to finish it, but perhaps I’ll read only in the daylight hours. Not so close to bedtime.” They worked on her for over two hours. Under each article of clothing they removed they found more cuts and bruises. Another gunshot wound in her leg had startled him. Denny wondered why the young woman was still alive the way she’d been treated. As he was wrapping up the wound on her leg and setting it in a temporary cast to make sure it wasn’t bumped, the woman looked at him. “Hello.” She nodded, but he thought her too weak to do much more than stare at him. “You’ve lost a lot of blood so I’m giving you some fluids. The wound on your head is stitched up, but I’m concerned at how deep it is. Julian told us you don’t know who you are.” “No.” She closed her eyes and he thought her asleep again. “I don’t know anything. Where am I?” “Stanton Ranch.” She asked him what state. “Ohio. You’re just outside of Zanesville. My family and I have a nice ranch here. Not that we have much in the way of animals any longer, but we did a long time—” “I had a gun. Where…did you take it?” He told her what one of his sons had done with it. “I’d like it back please. It…I have no idea why, but it comforts me.” “All right. But I’d like to wait until you’re a little stronger. I’ve given you something for the pain, and I’d hate for someone to be hurt when you were out of it.” She nodded, then moaned. “I’ve taken care of the wounds on your body. You have one GSW to the head, another to your shoulder, as well as one in your calf. They’re cleaned up and stitched. I’ve saved the bullets for you.” 
“I don’t know what I do for a living. I might be a bad guy.” He’d thought of that as well, but had a feeling that wasn’t what had gotten her shot. “The man who brought me here, you said he was your son. Will he tell anyone where I am?” “No. He said you were inflexible about not going to the hospital, so he thought it might be safer for all of us not to tell anyone that we’d found you, nor that you were shot.” She nodded again and Denny thought for sure she was out this time.  As he and Julian moved her to the bed he had set up in his offices at home, he asked him about what he thought had happened. He told him what she’d said to him when she woke up. “You think she’s a bad guy? Or anything to do with things that go bump in the night?” Denny told his son that he didn’t. “I don’t either. She could have shot me when I came up to her at the warehouse. Granted she was weak, but I think if she were a corrupt person, she would have done it anyway.” After moving her, he sat down at the little desk that was part of each room. He didn’t use his offices much anymore…just for an occasional bump or two from one of the ranch hands. They only had a couple horses now, having sold them off a while back when he realized that he was just too old for ranching. His sons were off on their own now and Denny was proud of each of them, but he missed them when they weren’t home. He supposed it was a way of life for the elderly. Denny did a search on shootings in the area. A couple had occurred which were, he thought, too far away for the young woman to have traveled from. There was a robbery, but he wrote that off as well, knowing somehow that she might not have been involved in that either.  When Lucy brought him lunch on a tray they ate together, talking quietly about the upcoming picnic they were having, as well as Brayden’s birthday. He was a little old for having parties, but it never stopped them from having them for their boys. However, they no longer hired a clown to entertain them. “Do you suppose that he’ll even be home this year? Last year he was two days late coming home.” Brayden hadn’t been home as much as they liked, not for years now. “I miss him more all the time. I know that he’s working, but I’d so much like to have him home again.” “I’ve spoken to him a few times over the last few weeks. I guess things in Africa aren’t going as well as they had thought, and he might be able to get away for a little longer this time. Something about money troubles, as well as supplies coming up missing.” Lucy said that it would be nice to have him home. “I know, but when I talked to him, he sounded so beaten. Like he’s just tired of it.” “Well, he’s been working at building homes all over the world for others for nearly ten years now. I know as well as you that if you don’t take a break now and again, you can’t just pop back like you did before. He needs to come home and be with his family, and let someone else work for a little while. Perhaps he would do better at making money. Not that we need it, but I want him home occasionally.” Denny agreed, but he wouldn’t tell Brayden that. The boy was too stubborn about people telling him what to do. “When did he say he’d be here? Soon?” 
“In a week. I had to make him narrow it down so that we could pick him up at the airport when he arrives. But of course, then I had to tell him several times that we didn’t mind going out of our way to get him. I swear, Lucy, I think he does that to make me mad.” She laughed and said they were alike in that. “What’s that supposed to mean? I’m not aggravating.” “If you say so, love. But when you get something in your head, you’re like a dog with a bone. You’ll pick at it to death.” They both looked over at the bed when the woman moaned. “She’s going to make it, isn’t she? I mean, she won’t get weaker from this, correct? Poor thing. I wonder if whoever did this to her even cares.” “No, I don’t think so. I have no idea why, but I think they would be upset to know she’s alive. But we might have some trouble keeping her down until she heals more. And she’s asked for her gun back and said that it’s comforting to her for some reason. She seems stubborn herself, don’t you think?” Lucy pointed out that she’d not spoken to her. “That’s right. I forgot. I’m concerned about the marks on her back. What they might mean to her. Or us.” “I was going to ask you if you looked them up while you were down here, but for some reason I have it in my head for you not to. It might lead someone here.” He nodded, telling her that he’d thought the same thing. “We don’t know anything about her, Denny, but I want to protect her like she’s our own child. Why is that, you suppose?” “I don’t know. But now that you mention it, I feel the same way. And even Julian said that he had this overwhelming need to make sure that she was safe. Not well, but safe. I asked him why and you know what he said? He told me that she needed him, that he felt it.” When she left him again, taking the tray with her, he sat at his computer to play a game. It was silly, he knew, when there were plenty of game systems upstairs, but he loved solitaire and found himself thinking about the game more than what he’d been doing earlier. It was a way to ease his mind…he had been playing games as a way to relieve stress for over a decade. The computer made it so much nicer. When a small ding alerted him that he had an incoming message, he clicked on it to see what his son had to say now. Brayden had better not be changing his mind. He wanted his boy home. When it came up, he read it three times to make sure that he’d not misread it. “I’m coming home, Dad. For good. I’ve had enough.” He started typing a reply when a second message from him came up. “Would you find me a house? Not too big, but nice. With a pool. I find that I want to swim again.” He told him he’d do just that, and smiled as he wrote the rest of his answer. “Are you sure you don’t want to build one? You should be good at it by now.” “I just want to live somewhere that is a nice home without any work on my part.” Denny watched the little icon that said Brayden was still typing paused. When it came up on his end, Denny could only stare at it. “I’m getting married. After I’m home. She’s not my mate, but I need some stability in my life and she can do it, I think. At least I hope so. She’s a little on the…. You’ll understand when you meet her. I’m bringing her home with me so you all can all get to know her too. Don’t tell Mom yet. I want to surprise her.” 
He’d certainly do that, Denny thought. Not his mate, yet he was going to marry her? That made his own cat sort of curl around him in fear. It was a feeling, one that had made him become a great surgeon, that had him thinking that his eldest son was about to make the biggest mistake of his life. “We’ll talk when you get here, son. Tell me when you expect to be at the airport and I’ll be there.” He told him he should be in the United States in two days. To pick him up on Wednesday. “All right. Give me times when you get them and I’ll make sure that you and your lovely bride-to-be have a ride home.” Brayden said that he loved him and then the message box told him that he’d logged off. Denny checked on his patient then went to find his Lucy. There wasn’t any way that he was going to keep this from her, and he found that he didn’t want to. He needed someone to tell him he wasn’t nuts for feeling this way. “She’s not his mate? You’re sure that’s what he said.” Denny assured Lucy that he’d read it three times to be sure. “Why would he do a fool thing like that? Doesn’t he know what sort of trouble that can cause him when she does come along?” “He said he needs some stability in his life. And while I can understand that, I wonder if he knows he’s not going to get it. Do you think he gets what he’s doing?” She just huffed, something that she’d done all their married life when she thought he should know the answer to something. “Lucy, he’s bringing her home to meet us. Oh, you’re not supposed to know. He told me not to tell you.” “Well, I’m glad that you did. And no, I don’t think he understands what he’s doing. I can understand living with a woman if you’re lonely. I don’t care for it, but I guess I can understand. But this is at a whole new level of living with someone for sex.” Denny nodded, thinking that his wife was losing her filter more all the time when it came to talking about things. “Denny, you’re going to have to talk to him as soon as he gets home.” “I will, I promise. But I’d like to say something to you, and I don’t want you to get upset. You’ve been a little…how should I say this? You’ve been a lot more outspoken lately. Is it that club you’ve joined? The Women Over Fifty Group?” She kissed him on the cheek as she walked by him. “Lucy, you didn’t answer me. What is it about you lately?” “I’ve decided that I’m too old to be trying to please everyone.” He said that he could understand that. “And I’m not saying what I want, I just have opinions. A great many of them. But I’ve been too shy to say them. I’ve decided that I’m not going to sit in the back row any longer, but voice my opinion.”  After she left him in the kitchen, he laid his head on the butcher block they used as an island. Oh Lord, she was going to be the death of him, he just knew it. He smiled as he lifted his head. But she sure was fun now. He thought he liked this new Lucy. Going to the basement again, he sat with his patient.  Maybe, he thought, he’d take up this new habit Lucy had adopted. Saying what he wanted might be fun. Yes, sir, he was going to do that from now on instead of what people wanted to hear. He wondered what his sons would think about their new parents.   

Caleb: Winchester Brothers ( New Series ) Release Day & Giveaway

Caleb Winchester didn’t care for his boss, in fact he despised him. He hadn’t meant to quit that day–the words ‘I quit’ spilled from his mouth without thinking–but once said he had no regrets. He was a good ad executive, he could find another job.

Quinn Dorsey and her father, Alexander, had seen Caleb’s work and that was the artist they needed for their dog food labels. When the agency couldn’t deliver the ad campaign they ordered, and then lied about Caleb working on the project, they went looking for the man himself.

Caleb hadn’t expected his customers to seek him out, but when Alexander shows up at Caleb’s house with his daughter, Quinn, Caleb is floored–she’s his mate and she’s been marked by another alpha.

Caleb’s not going to let an alpha beat him out of his mate. This lunatic has been marking females left and right, but if Caleb claims her, he risks not only his life, but the life of his mate and family as well….

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“Dag nabbit boy, what is wrong with you? Do you have sawdust in that noggin of yours?” Caleb said he wasn’t sure. “I’d be thinking you’d better be getting sure if you wanna live through this here thing. Your momma, she’s going to be having herself a kitten if I don’t miss my bet.” He looked over at the truck, or what was left of it. Caleb wanted to tell his dad that it wasn’t his fault, that he’d done nothing wrong, only he was sure that he’d still be in trouble. Caleb had been driving and he had hit the tree. “I’ll pay for the damages.” His dad said he darn tooting was. “And I’ll make sure that the tree is all right. I don’t know how I’ll make that happen, but I will. Mr. Wheedle likes this tree, and I would feel bad if it died.” The tow truck arrived about ten minutes later, and Caleb saw his mom get out of it almost before it was completely stopped. She asked him if he was all right, then she hugged him. Caleb waited for her to make sure he wasn’t bleeding profusely, then stood straighter when she glared. “Where were you going in an all-out hurry?” He told her he wasn’t speeding. She looked at the truck, which was on the dolly now, then at him. “You want to tell me why the truck, the only vehicle that we have, is all mangled up like those towels you left on the floor this morning?” “I wasn’t driving fast, but the wolf that ran out in front of me seemed to be…I think it was hurt.” He looked over at his dad, then at the ground again as he continued. “A wolf came out of nowhere. I wasn’t going to hit it, but it seemed to just jump in front of me. Like it was trying to kill itself. I swerved to miss it and lost control. I’m not blaming the wolf, because I was the one driving, but I didn’t want to hurt the wolf. But like I told Dad, I’ll pay for all the damages and work on the truck until it’s running again.” Neither of his parents said anything and Caleb looked up. They were looking at each other, and he felt his wolf run over his skin. There was something going on and he had no idea why, but he thought they believed him about the wolf. “This wolf, you ever seen it before? I mean, around the house?” He said that he’d not. “Can you tell me if you thought it was a shifter or just a regular old wolf? And I need you to be sure, so if you don’t know, then say it.” “It was bigger than a regular wolf. Of that I’m sure. But as for whether or not it’s a shifter, no, I don’t know.” His mom nodded and looked at his dad again. “May I know what’s going on?” “You know old Mr. Cartwright?” He asked if she meant his old math teacher. “Yes, that’ll be him. His mate died a few days ago. She was poorly for a while now and she just passed on. Mr. Cartwright, he was with her a good long time. Said he didn’t think he could live without her.” “So he was trying to kill himself?” Caleb’s mom said nothing, but he could see the hurt on her face. “Mom, I didn’t hurt him. I missed him by a mile. He…I like that old man. I hurt that he does.”
“I know you do, son. So do I. To lose a mate…you know how that would make me feel should I lose your father.” She hugged him again. “But I need for you to do me a favor. A big one. And before you say something, yes, it is a lie, but it’s a good lie. Don’t tell anyone what happened here today. The pack will frown on him trying this.” “All right.” He looked at the truck, then back at his parents. “I’ll still take care of this. I swear to you that I will. And I’ll make sure that I keep a better lookout for Mr. Cartwright, too.” “You do that, Caleb. You go on ahead and do that for him.” Caleb and his dad made their way to the tow truck. “You know why we don’t want you to say anything? I mean, the real reason?” “No sir.” He watched his dad help Mom into the tow truck. She didn’t need it; Caleb knew that, but he loved watching his parents together. They loved each other the best, he thought. Always thinking of the other one no matter what was going on. “Mr. Cartwright loved his mate. I know that you understand that part of it, but he had nobody but her. They don’t have themselves any children or anybody else to call their own. If he were to die like this, by suicide, the pack wouldn’t bury him in a proper way. They’d just let his body rot in the field where he crawled to and let him just be more alone. On account’a that, he’d not be next to his mate in the cemetery. Understand?” “Yes, sir. He’s a good man who’s suffered a great loss.” His dad said that was it. “I’ll go on over and see him later. I won’t mention what happened, just see if he wants to go fishing or something. Keep him company.” “You’re a good boy, Caleb. All you boys are. I’m right proud of you.” Caleb felt his face heat up with embarrassment. “Now, you go on home. I’ll work something out with the driver here. We’ll muddle through this. I swear it.” Caleb knew that his family ran right on the edge of poverty, like a lot of families around here. But unlike most of them, his family had food on the table nightly and they had power and heat. His dad worked hard every day to make sure of that. And he and his younger brothers, all of them, did everything they could to help too. This wrecking of the truck, however, was going to hurt them for some time.  Instead of going home, he found himself standing in front of the Cartwright home. Mr. Cartwright was sitting on the front porch, rocking in his chair like he was going someplace. And he was crying. Caleb coughed, then cleared his throat to make sure to give the older man a little bit of time to collect himself. “What are you doing here? Don’t you have enough to do around that farm of yours that you should be here bothering me?” Caleb nodded and told him he had plenty to do, but wanted to ask him something. “Whatever it is, you don’t have any business asking me. Go on home.” “Would you like to go fishing with me? I sure could use a nice little break today. And I know you have that nice stream that goes behind your house.” Mr. Cartwright stopped rocking and asked him why he needed a break. “I had myself an accident earlier. My mom, she’s not mad at me. More glad that I’m all right, but I’d like to make it up to her by bringing home some meat for dinner.”
“And that means what to me? Are you telling things that aren’t true, boy? You do that and I’ll come after your entire family.” Caleb asked him what he meant by that. “What did you tell your parents about wrecking the truck?” Caleb looked at the ground again. He’d not said a thing about the truck, or wrecking for that matter. Mr. Cartwright would only know that if he’d been there. His parents were right in what they had thought. “I just needed to take a little break, that’s all. I thought…. Well, I guess you have more important things to do than to spend a lazy hour with a kid.” He nodded at him, his heart hurting for what the man was going through. “I’ll see you around, Mr. Cartwright.” “Now hold on there a minute. I never said I’d not go.” He stood up and Caleb tried not to notice how his face was a little scuffed up and that he was walking slower than usual. “You and me, we’ll go fishing today, but I don’t want you to make a habit of just showing up here. You need to be working on your math more than you need to be fishing with an old man.” Mr. Cartwright got them both some gear and even packed them up a nice basket of food to share. There was sweet tea to go with it, too. As they made their way down to the stream, Mr. Cartwright told him about how he had a good recipe for trout, and that he had some stored apples still from last year.  The two of them caught nine trout and two catfish. As he was helping the man gather up their papers from the food and the gear, Mr. Cartwright asked him if he’d take the entire catch with him to his house. “I already told my mom what I caught. She said that there was so much, you should come join us.” He hadn’t talked to his mom, but knew that if Mr. Cartwright would agree then he would. “She even baked a nice peach cobbler today. I was smelling it this morning. I’m betting there might be some homemade ice cream too.” In the end, Caleb was able to convince Mr. Cartwright to join them, and his dad said he’d dig out the old churn, that ice cream sure did sound good. The cobbler was the only thing he’d not lied to the man about. It was, after all, what he’d asked for as his special dessert for his birthday. Caleb Kelley Winchester was seventeen today. As he walked the man back to his house, they didn’t say much. He was stuffed as he’d ever been, and eating with the man beside him had made for a great gift, one he’d not expected to get. When he was up on his porch, Caleb turned to go home when Mr. Cartwright said his name. Caleb turned back to see him standing there with a sad look on his face. “My wife is gone. I know you know that, but I hurt with it. Worse than I ever dreamed I’d be, and that was a lot.” Caleb said he was sorry. “I’m sure you know it was me that caused you that accident. And…. Well, I’m sorrier than I can tell you that you missed me.” “I’m not. Had you died out there, I would have killed a great man on my birthday. I don’t think that would have settled well for me, do you?” He shook his head. “Mr. Cartwright, if you don’t mind, I’d very much like to hang out with you sometimes. I’m sorry that you hurt so much, and there isn’t anything I can do to fix it, but I really enjoyed today. And the meat was an added bonus. You’re a good man, and I liked today.”
“I did too. It’s the first enjoyment I’ve had in a while.” Caleb nodded. “And if you want to come by here and see me, I’ll not be sorry about that either. You’re a good boy, Caleb. I hope you know that.” “I hope so. My mom will be really disappointed in me if I’m not.” He laughed with Caleb. “I’ll come by tomorrow, sir. And we’ll see about fixing that leaky roof that you were telling me about. All right?” “Yes, I’d like that. I might have a few other chores around here that you can help me with too, if you’ll allow me to pay you for them.” He said that wasn’t necessary, but he’d like the company. “I would as well. I’ll see you tomorrow then.” Caleb returned home with a lighter step. He knew that things were going to be tighter now. His dad had told him that the truck towing alone cost nearly fifty dollars, more than he knew his parents had. He was going to go see Shelton in the morning to see if he could work off a bit of that a week. Caleb was going to hold to his promise of paying for the damage. ~~~ Arnold sat on his rocker and felt better than he had in a while…since his wife had taken her last breath, as a matter of fact. He wiped at the tears that fell, thinking that he just hurt to think about her too much. “I failed you, my darling. Failed to come to you today.” He looked in the direction that the young Caleb had taken. “I should have been a little more selective of who I ran in front of, I guess. An older driver, he wouldn’t have been that quick to swerve to miss me. But I got me a friend out of this mess I put me in. A few of them, I think. And the trout was almost as good as you made me on occasion.” Rocking more, he thought of the Winchester family and how meager their table had been tonight. He wondered what they might have eaten had they not brought the fish to them. But whatever might have been on their table, he was sure that they would have enjoyed it and felt blessed by it. He rocked a little harder. “They got themselves nothing to get around in because of me. I did that to them. I heard that boy telling his daddy that he’d make it right. And I have a feeling that he will too. No matter the cost to his time.” Arnold paused in his rocking to think of what he could do to make it up to them. “That old truck out back, I think they’ll be able to use it, don’t you?” He thought of other things that he had that he no longer had any use for. He’d give it to them, to make up for what they’d lost. But he’d have to be sly about it. Arnold would not take their pride from them. And he knew for as much as they didn’t have, their pride was a thing they valued a great deal. Pulling his phone toward him, he called Shelton Bloom. When he answered his phone on the forth ring, Arnold had to laugh. He was sounding like a man who might need a break himself. “Shelton, it’s Arnold Cartwright here. I wanted to talk to you about the Winchester truck that you brought there today.” Shelton told him it wasn’t worth fixing even if they had the money. Arnold had already figured that was what he’d say. “You got anything there that they can use up? I’ll pay you for it. Not top dollar, but I’ll pay you for it. That
boy, Caleb, he’s going to be running me around, and I need him to have something to use.” “There are two old beaters in the back that run all right. But I don’t know, Mr. Cartwright. You might need something better than that. I’d surely hate to think of the two of you broken down on the side of the road. How about I let him take that car that Masterson never paid for? It’s a beauty and runs like it’s in its second childhood.” Shelton understood what he was doing, even if Arnold was a little nervous about it. “I think it’ll hold you both, and his family, should they need to be on an outing together. What do you think? It won’t cost you a thing either. Mr. Masterson said I could have it for working on it.” By the time he hung up the phone, he’d planned to have the towing paid by him and his old truck looked at to make sure it was running well. There wasn’t any reason why he couldn’t drive himself around, but to have that boy helping him might be worth it. As he settled into his chair again, Arnold spoke to his lovely wife. “I might not be joining you just yet, my love. This family, I have a feeling that they need me as much as I do them. And I have a powerful need to help them out.” He nodded into the darkness, thinking of how much more alive he felt because a boy hadn’t killed him like he’d wanted. “You just hang on tight and I’ll be there soon enough. I need to be helpful to them and in return…. Well, I think they’re going to be more helpful to me than I ever thought.” Over the next few weeks, not only did he get his leaky roof fixed by Caleb, but he also got his lawn mowed, his bushes trimmed, and he even got the steps to his barn repaired. Not only did Caleb help him, but the rest of them, including that mom of his, lent him a hand or two. He had berries in his freezer, and a few little pies he could eat when he wanted. His pants were patched up, and there wasn’t a single button missing off any of his shirts. His wife, Thelma, she’d been sick for a time, and those things had gone by the wayside. It was nice having the house all aired out and the sheets on his bed to be fresh. It was like they’d adopted him, and he was liking it. Caleb was in his yard, mowing the last of the grass, when he realized how much more he could help this boy. College. He needed this boy—hell, all them boys—to go to college. Arnold also knew that the Winchesters would be lucky to send one to college, not to mention six of them. So he set about, in his own little way, making that happen as well.  And he sat down to dinner with them every night too. Sometimes there was meat, most nights not. But Arnold didn’t mind. He was with good people, and that made up for his belly being just a little upset with him for not having a hunk of meat in it. He decided to help them out with that as well. Arnold was having fun. Helping these people was fun. “I need me a person to work for me full time.” Caleb’s father asked him what he needed and that he’d find him someone. “No, I’m talking about you, Kelley. I need you to come work for me full time.” “Mr. Cartwright, you’re a very nice man. And I have to tell you, you couldn’t have helped us out any better than giving us that vehicle to get around in. Mary said it’s a real
treat for her to go shopping and not have to load it all in the back end of that old truck of ours. And don’t think I don’t know that you’ve made a few other things happen for us too. I’m appreciative of it, I swear to you. But you don’t have to go making up work for me. I’m glad to help you out.” Arnold started to speak, but Kelley cut him off before he could. “Caleb is learning a lot from you. How to be a better man, and to know that not everything he does needs to have a payment in the end in the form of money. I thank you for that too. But like I said, you’ve done about enough.” “No, I’ve not, Kelley. Without you—without that boy there—I’d be dead now. We both know it.” Kelley nodded and Arnold nodded before continuing. “That day that I hurt him—and I know that it did—but that day he gave me something I’d not had in a long while, since my wife took ill. He gave me purpose. And this job that I have for you, it’s not a made up one. I do need you. I have…I don’t have anyone else.” “You know that I’ll surely be glad to help you. You’re a good man.” Arnold thanked him. “What is it you need help with? I’m not too smart, but I’ll give it my best shot.” Arnold had no doubt whatsoever that he would too. Yes, sir, he was going to have the time of his life with this family.

Danburn The English Dragon Release Day & Giveaway 6/13/16

Danburn English is the ninth earl of the English castle. He and his dragon alter ego have been on this earth for a very long time. Danburn is accustom to his orders being followed to the letter, no questions asked, so when this feisty young woman bucks his authority he is beyond angry.
Kendrick Barrera can’t seem to get caught up. Every time she turns around, her sister is in trouble again. Now, because of her sister’s new mess, she’s being evicted and has nowhere to go.
Danburn’s intentions were to defend her honor, but when Kendrick intervenes, she steps in front of a punch intended for her mouthy landlord. Now Danburn has to step back and take a good long look at himself, and he doesn’t much like what he sees.
Kendrick doesn’t care for the overbearing lord of the manor and makes no bones about telling him so either. No one, especially him, is going to tell her what to do or how to act or dress.
There is something about the feisty woman that has touched Danburn’s heart. She has a rare honesty and bravery that has him take notice. A woman like that is hard to find and should be protected and cherished. The chemistry is there, they’ve both felt it, but controlling his mouth just might get in the way of winning Kendrick’s heart….


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Chapter 1
Danburn moved to the side of the large lake and stripped off his boots. It wasn’t
necessary for him to take his clothing off, but he wanted to just sit in the grass for a few
minutes before he headed home. He looked over at the large castle and smiled. Some home,
he thought. It was bigger than the hotel he’d just left a few days ago.
He stood at the very edge of the water and calmed his inner beast. He was hungry
for some time of his own, and Danburn had been promising it to him for weeks now. It
would give him what he wanted, or Danburn would suffer at his hands. It wouldn’t be
painful, not really, but it would be annoying. And home was the only place that Danburn
could give him the freedom that they both so craved.
Diving into the water, he felt his beast take him. Not all at once, but enough to know
that his beast was just as anxious as he was to be free. Parallel with the water, he felt him
take all of him, and as soon as he hit the water, there was nothing left of the man he had
The water was deeper than it looked. Much like the castle, there were hidden coves
and outlets in this lake that no one except a few that he trusted knew about. Danburn
swam the distance of the entire lake before flipping and making his way back to swim
beneath the earth into the deepest part of it.
Swimming like this wasn’t the same as flying, but it was close. The beast, a dragon,
was much larger than Danburn by nearly ten times, and weighed several tons. His wings
alone were as wide as several football fields laid end to end, and his tail was nearly fifty
feet long, covered in thick spikes and dark scales. Danburn had never understood the
dynamics of what he was and what he could become, but he did enjoy the way it made
him feel.
He was in need of some air several hours later, and slowly rose his snout to the
surface of the water to take a breath. As he was breathing in the oxygen, he caught a scent
that startled him. Fresh blood. And a great deal of it. Moving to the reeds behind him,
Danburn lifted his big head out of the water to look around, knowing that he would be
well camouflaged if anyone were to look in his direction. There was not a measure of
sound, not a ripple of movement, on the water or around him.
The scent was stronger now, but he could see nothing out of the ordinary. He
continued to search just to make sure that nothing was going to come back and bite him
in the ass later. It was, after all, his property, and usually everyone knew better than to
trespass on his land. As he watched, something moved at the corner of his vision. It was
then that he saw what his nose had already told him.
The woman was making her way to the water, slowly looking around as much as he
was for something to come upon her. He could see that she was hurt. The blood stained
the water even as she made her way to the deeper part, which was several hundred yards
from where he was. Danburn looked around again when she ducked under the water,
knowing that she’d not be able to stay under long because of her being human. He could
taste it in the scent of her blood as she hid below the surface.
A man—or now that he could see them, men—were walking to where she was.
Danburn didn’t want to interfere, especially in his current form, so he waited. When one
of the men lifted a rifle, pointing it in the direction the woman had gone, Danburn dipped
beneath the water just as the shot was fired.
When he saw her, it appeared she’d been hit. Her eyes were closed, not in death, but
in pain. Blood pooled around them both as he reached her. Grabbing her gently with his
clawed hand, he pulled her body to his and swam to the underground tunnel of his home.
He knew that someone would be there. His friend and go-to man, Noah, would be there
if no one else was. Emerging from the water, he handed the limp woman to Noah and
dove back into the waters without a word. He had to make sure that she was safe,
whoever she was, as well as his home.
Two of the four men were in the water when he emerged from the reeds. Danburn
didn’t even bother trying to figure out what they were doing there, or even what they
had wanted the woman for, but pulled them both under the water and held them there
until they no longer struggled. When he was satisfied that they were no longer a threat,
he moved to the surface again and waited for someone, either man, to come into the water
to retrieve the now floating bodies of their comrades.
They were being very cautious, but he was a very patient man and could wait them
out for hours. Just as one of the men moved to the edge of the water, he heard the sounds
of the sirens coming. Noah, he thought, had called someone for him. As the men
scrambled away, leaving the dead for him to deal with, Danburn sank beneath the surface
again and headed back to the cove where he’d taken the woman.
Noah was there, as was his personal physician, Pierce Cunningham. Noah said
nothing as he held out a towel for him when he shifted to his body and climbed out of
the water, shaking a few of his scales into the depths to replenish what he’d done to it.
Leaving the dead behind would harm the lake only a little, but he hated doing it. Noah
fussed at him then, telling him he should have taken better care. Noah was sometimes
worse than his mother could be when it came to him.
“I couldn’t let her die, you know.” Nothing but a small huff of a sound. As he took
the towel and dried his legs, he was handed a shirt and tie. “We have a guest?”
“Yes. A party. In your mother’s honor. I’m not sure what we’re to do with this injured
woman, but I’m just glad that we have no guests coming. I don’t think it would bode well
for you if anyone found out.” Danburn paused in getting dressed and looked at the
woman, then back at Noah. “Pierce is doing the best he can with her. The beating she
took was bad, but Pierce said that with a little rest she’ll be good as new. The gunshot
wounds, however, will need some tending to.”
“Wounds? As in more than one?” Noah told him there were two total on her person.
“I only heard the one shot. I had no idea that…by the way, there are two bodies in the
lake. They drowned.”
Noah tisked at him, and Danburn had to hide a smile. The man was such a prude. As
he pulled on his pants, not bothering with the underwear held out for him, he asked Noah
what the police were called for.
“I’ve no idea, my lord.” He was in trouble if Noah was calling him lord. “Perhaps
they heard of a large dragon swimming in the waterways and drowning people, and
someone took it upon themselves to call the law. Or perhaps they think that having a shot
up woman in their realm is something else that they might fumble into, and half blindly
find the culprit.”
“You’re in a mood, aren’t you?” Noah snatched the towel from him and walked
away. “I’m fine, in the event you were going to ask. No shots to my poor body.”
“We should be so lucky, my lord.”
Danburn was still laughing as he made his way to the upper levels. He made sure
that the woman was cared for and put into one of the many bedrooms, but out of sight of
the household. He had no idea who she was, but no one physically hurt women—and
that was all there was to it.
When he entered the living room, his mother stood up and came to him.
“You smell of lake water.” He kissed her on the cheek and told her she smelled
wonderful. “Good save, but it does not negate that while I was here wasting away,
waiting for you to come and wish me a happy birthday, you were having a nice dip in
the water. Danburn, you know I hate it when you’re late.”
“I know, Mom, but this couldn’t be helped.” He told her what he’d come upon, and
she wanted to see the woman right away. “Pierce is working with her. He’s to come and
get me if there are any problems with her when she wakes. He said she took a hell of a
“You didn’t really kill those men, did you? Right on your own lake?” He told her that
there was little choice in that too. “I’m sure that once their bodies are found there will be
questions. Do you know who the other two were?”
“No, but I know what they look like and what they smell like.” Dinner was
announced, and he escorted her into the dining room. There would be cake later, after
her favorite meal of lobster and steak, then he’d give her his gifts. He might have
forgotten about what the date was, but he never forgot her birthday.
Dinner was a quiet affair with just the two of them. He did try to get Noah to come
and have cake with them, but he only glared, something that he was quite good at, and
told them that he’d have some later, with the rest of the staff.
No one could put themselves in a class better than Noah did. The man was pompous
as well as correct, but Danburn loved him with all of his heart. And he was pretty sure
that Noah loved him as well. The two of them had been together for as long as Danburn
had been alive, and that had been a long time.
“I’ve been thinking of taking a trip.” He didn’t mention that he had the same idea for
her in the form of a cruise, but only nodded at his mom’s statement. “With you closing
up the house here, I just don’t think I can stand to be around to see it. We’ve been here
for so long, Danburn, that I don’t know what I’ll do without being able to come here.”
“I’m closing the house, not tearing it down. And I’ve told you several times, you can
live here for as long as you want. I just need to be closer to my work.” She nodded, but
he could see the sadness there. “Mom, what is it really? Is it Dad? Do you not want to
leave him?”
He knew that his mom went to talk to his dad daily. He’d died some two hundred
years ago when he’d let an infection get into one of his wings and it had spread to his
heart before they could do anything about it. Even as immortals there were things that
could kill them, and poisoning of the blood was the biggest one.
“I can talk to him anywhere, but yes, that’s part of it.” She sat down before the blazing
fire and looked at it instead of him as she continued. “I love this place. I understand that
you need to be closer to your job and all. But this is home to me. And to you. I wish…there
are times when I wish I had taken my own home instead of coming here to yours. I should
have thought that if you found a mate, she’d want to run her own home and not have me
“Don’t say that, Mom. Please don’t. I’m not going to have a mate this late in my life.
And even if I do, if she doesn’t like you, there is no way I’m going to love her. I’m not
going to sell this place or leave it to ruin. I just think it’ll be better in the long run for me
to settle elsewhere. At least for the time being.” He didn’t tell her the real reason, but he
had a feeling that she knew. The house was lonely without his dad there. He’d been a
rock in his otherwise turbulent life. “Why don’t you let me give you my gifts? I know that
you’ve been trying to get information from Noah.”
“Yes. And he’s as stubborn as you are.” After winking at her, he went to get the boxes.
There were several of them; he would find things for her throughout the year and send
them here to give to her for this occasion. “Oh, so many. Danburn, you spoil me rotten,
you know that, don’t you?”
“Yes, but you make it so easy.” She hugged him to her, longer and tighter than
normal, and he pulled her to him when she started to back away. “I love you, Mom. And
will forever.”
Long after she went up to bed, he sat in the den watching the fire. He’d been to check
on the woman, and there was no change in her. He’d also asked Noah to find out where
the police were going, and so far there was nothing on that either. Only that they’d gone
to the property near him, the one where he knew the new owner was up to no good. Not
until someone knocked on the front door did he realize how late it had become. Or that
it had started raining.
Kendrick felt like a drowned rat. Her hair was plastered to her head, and her coat
was as soaked clear through. The boots she had on, usually made for this sort of weather,
had gotten a leak in them a few days ago, and she’d thought for sure she’d be able to
afford a new pair by now. Then her sister…. Well, it is always Louisa, now isn’t it? Kendrick
thought. One thing or another was always befalling her sister. Reaching for the giant
knocker on the door again, she nearly screamed when a man suddenly opened the door
and stared at her.
“I was wondering if I could use your phone.” He stood there so still she wondered
for a moment if he was real. “I broke down a few miles back, and I dropped my phone in
a puddle and it no longer works.”
Lie, she told herself as her face heated up at the fib. The phone didn’t work because
Louisa had stolen her money for the bill and it had gone dead for lack of payment. Like
her boots and her now overdue rent, there was no money to take care of even the simplest
things, including food. Louisa was going to ruin her more than she already had.
As the man continued to stare at her, she had the most overwhelming urge to snap
her fingers in front of him to see if he was sleepwalking.
“Or not. I guess we can just stand here, staring at each other until one of us dies from
the cold and wet. I’m thinking it’ll be me, since you’re all snug as a bug in the house.” He
still did nothing. “Christ. Is there someone here that speaks? Any language? I know a few
that we can try out.”
“The master of the house has gone to bed.” Well, big fucking deal. She didn’t want
the master of anything, just a fucking phone. “If you were to wait here, I’ll retrieve the
phone for you and you may use it.”
The door closed so fast that she had no time to tell him to forget it. She stood there
for several seconds, wondering why she was even bothering about this, then turned and
made her way back to the driveway. Fuck this shit. Louisa was on her own.
Three hours ago, Louisa had called her and told her that she was in trouble, which
by Kendrick’s estimation happened about four times a day. It was out of the pan and into
the fire for her sister. Just trying to figure out how she did it was usually more of an effort
than she cared to make any more. But the call had come, and she’d driven her piece of
shit car to where Louisa said she was, to bail her out if she could. There was no money,
so if that was going to be it, Louisa was going to have to deal with it on her own. But who
the fuck knew there really was an English castle here?
The night was so nasty and cold that she wished now that she’d stayed home. No
matter what she did for Louisa, it was never enough, nor did it keep her out of the next
bout of trouble. But when she’d mentioned guns and men, like an idiot, Kendrick had
dropped everything to come to her rescue. And more than likely had lost yet another job
because she couldn’t stay until the end of her shift. Life with her sister was as bad is it
came, she thought.
“I should have my head examined. Again.” She huddled into her soaking wet coat
and stomped her way back to the main road to her broken down car. “Come and get me,
she said. They have guns and they’re going to kill me. Perhaps I’d get some peace and
quiet if they did.”
Stopping in her tracks, Kendrick felt herself start to cry at what she’d said. There was
no way she’d leave Louisa to get shot just so she’d leave her alone. She loved her sister
more than she did herself at times. But it was becoming too much. She was broke, thanks
to her, late on all her bills, again thanks to her sister, and she’d not had a decent meal in
longer than she could remember. Her belly seconded that comment by growling loudly.
Louisa was a good person when she wanted to be…mostly when she needed
something or someone to do something for her. Her troubles, Kendrick knew, happened
because she was so demanding, and when someone told her that she was going to get
this or that for her troubles, she believed them. Kendrick had learned her lessons at the
hand of a very nasty person, namely her own mother, and knew that trusting anyone
could get you killed. Or worse.
“Beat me once, shame on you. Beat me a couple of dozen more times, and I have to
learn to run and hide better.” She stood in the middle of the field, not having a clue where
she was, and then heard a sound behind her. “Fuck.”
Diving into the brush closest to her, she lay as still as she could, trying not to think
about what might be sharing the place with her as two men walked by her. One of them,
she knew, was the quiet man at the door.
“I was bringing her the phone. Why would she leave when I told her that I would
bring her the phone?” The other man said nothing but grunted. “It’s not my fault that she
has not the sense of a toad to get in out of the rain. I guess I could have talked to her more,
but I was so shocked to see her there that I was rendered speechless for too long.” She
wanted to get up and tell him had he invited her in, she’d not have been in the rain, but
said nothing.
The two of them were just passing her when they stopped suddenly. Sure that they’d
found her, she wished now that she’d brought some sort of weapon with her. A rock
would have made her feel better than she did at the moment.
“She’s here. I can smell her.” The other man lifted his nose to the air, and Kendrick
had a feeling that he really could smell her. She’d left work so quickly to get to Louisa
that she’d not had time to change her clothing. She knew she smelled of french fries and
greasy meat. “You look over there and I’ll go this way. And for Christ’s sake, Noah, don’t
step on her. Danburn is pissed enough about this.”
“Yes. I will try. She didn’t appear to be injured. But I will be careful.” The other man—
Sniffer, she decided to call him—told him to hush. As Sniffer made his way toward her,
she closed her eyes and wished she was home in her own bed, wished it as hard as she’d
wished for a great many things lately.
Peeking beneath her lashes, she knew that someone was standing over her. She saw
his boots first. And the insane thought of how expensive they looked and how totally out
of her league they were was running through her mind when he bent his knee to become
eye level with her. He didn’t say anything but put out his hand to her, which she refused
to take.
“I just wanted to call someone. I don’t know who it might have been, but I thought
someone could help me out.” He said nothing but kept his hand where it was. “Why
don’t you pretend that you didn’t find me? I’ll go back to my car and sit there until either
this monsoon takes me away or the sun comes up. I’m sure this Danburn person wouldn’t
care a fig if you just left me here.”
“It won’t work. He’s very stubborn. And until one of us shows up with you, my boss
will make us keep looking for you. He is, at this moment, looking in the opposite direction
that you took, by the way. Did you know that you are about five feet from the lake?” She
didn’t even bother turning. It would be her luck that it was just a ploy to catch her off
guard…or maybe there really was a lake behind her. One with a great big monster in it.
“There is one. It’s deeper than it looks, and holds all sorts of secrets that you are better
off not knowing.”
“Right now I wouldn’t care if something lurking it in came out and gobbled me up.
I’m so fucked right now.” He nodded, but said nothing more. “I don’t suppose you know
a woman by the name of Louisa Barrera, do you? She’s my sister, and the reason I’m out
here this late at night.” He told her that he did not. “Well, it was worth a shot.”
Standing up on her own, she watched the man as he put two fingers into his mouth
and made the most amazing sound she’d ever heard. Being called a simple whistle wasn’t
enough. It was perfectly pitched and loud enough to wake the dead. The man from the
doorway came toward them with a small flashlight. It occurred to her then that she had
one in her glove box, but the battery was more than likely dead. Why should that work
out for her?
“You should have waited, miss. I was returning with the phone.” She wanted to say
something along the lines of she hadn’t felt welcome, but didn’t. “The master of the house
is most upset with you. He said he has enough going on right now, and he’s right.
Danburn is usually right.”
“Me? Why is he upset with me? I didn’t do anything but ask to use the phone. You
guys came out in the rain to find me. And I doubt very much he’s always right. Bossy
more than likely, but not always right.” She was sloshing back with them in the event
that one of them would offer to give her a lift back to her car, which she’d only just
realized was in the opposite direction from where they were headed. “I think we’re going
the wrong way. I just want to go home now. I’ll find her in the morning. Why I believed
her when she said that men with guns were after her, I have no idea.”
“Guns? Your sister told you there were men with guns after her? Well, if that’s the
case, I think we might know her after all.” She stopped moving when Sniffer spoke. She
was still standing there when he turned and looked at her. “Blonde with dark eyes. A
mark on her left arm that looks like someone touched it with a curling iron?”
“I have no idea what color her hair is now. It’s been a couple of days since I’ve
actually…. Never mind. The mark, it was a branding iron. One of her boyfriends thought
it would be cool if they branded each other. She was first, and he chickened out when she
screamed and fainted. Where is she? Dead? Please tell me she’s all right.” He assured her
that when he’d left to find her she was fine. “I can take her now if you’ll just let me use
the phone to call in a favor. My car won’t…it’s too far for me to take her back by walking.”
“She’s been shot.” Kendrick felt her knees just give out, and something—or she
supposed someone—scooped her up before she fell. The voice of the man, strong and
angry, made her struggle against him, but he commanded her to be still and she did.
“What were you thinking walking around in the rain like a fool? You could have been
killed or drowned. Do you have the sense that God gave you?” She struggled again and
he told her to be still. “If you fall now, I will simply have Noah get the car and run you
over several times for scaring the household.”
“You are a charmer, aren’t you? I bet all the women around just fall at your feet from
the way nice things just roll off your forked tongue. Let me go, you buffoon. I just want
to get my sister and get the hell away from you people.” He laughed, and Kendrick
wanted to hit him, but they were suddenly standing in the hallway of the most beautiful
area she’d ever been in. “Where the hell am I? Dead?”
“No, you are not dead. There is something decidedly wrong with you, isn’t there?”
She looked at him then, really looked, and wished to Christ she hadn’t. Men like him,
handsome and sexy, were not something one like her saw much of. If ever. “This is my
home. And you are an unwelcome intruder. Had you not upset my household, I would
be sleeping in my bed, not soaked to the skin looking for you in the rain.”
“Danburn!” The woman’s voice coming from the staircase sounded shocked. It took
all the energy Kendrick had to tear her eyes away from the hunk of nasty beauty to look
at her. “Nous ne traitons pas invité cette façon. Quel est ton problème?”
“I’m not a guest, but an intruder, as he called me. And if you’re going to speak a
different language to chew him out, you should know that I can speak more than most
people.” Kendrick looked at the man, then back at the woman. “As for what is wrong
with him. I would say that he’s not any different than he normally is, a nasty
dispositioned prick that got up on the wrong side of the bed today, and is taking it out
on the people around him like it’s his job. Like he does daily.”
The woman laughed and reached out her hand. “Hello, my dear. I’m the nasty
dispositioned prick’s mother, Lady English. I’m to understand from Noah that your sister
is here. Let me take you to her.”
As they moved by the big man, Kendrick couldn’t help herself. She stuck her tongue
out at him and flipped him off. There was going to be hell to pay for that, she was sure,
but right now she felt like she’d won a small battle. And she had a feeling that there were
going to be a few more battles before this was done.

Kenton The McCade Dragon Release Day & Winner Announced 3/7/16

Emma Gentry felt like she was losing her mind. From the time she had picked up the pretty ring to examine it, she’d been hearing a voice in her head. When she ran from the demolished building, she’d slipped the ring on her finger so that she wouldn’t drop it, now she couldn’t get it off. She was in dire need of medical attention, but the voice wouldn’t let her stop to get help. There were others looking for the ring and would kill her for it. Emma was on the run.

Kenton McCade was the doctor in the family. When found Emma in his office treating a badly infected wound on her leg, he had to help her. The infection had spread and she was near death.

Kenton and his brothers were dragon shifters born without the ability to shift into their other half. The magic, it seemed, lay dormant in a sleeping dragon that was tied to six pieces of jewelry. When the ring found its way to Emma, her touch had woken the sleeping beast. When Emma touched Kenton’s sigil on his chest, he shifted to his beast for the first time. But the beast from the ring would not be complete until all the jewelry found its way to their rightful dragons….

Emma was still on the run…they need her to survive…but Emma trusted no one…
Winner of a mystery paperback is  L Smith please check your email  on how to claim the paperback and make sure you check your spam folder and congrats 

Chapter 1
“I need you to tell me what this is worth.” Emma looked up at the man that held out a little box to her. If it was in her power, Emma would gladly have punched him in the nose. But she also knew that he’d hit her back, and it would be ten times more painful than anything she could do to him. “Now, Emma. And he said for you not to dally. He needs it now.”
“So, you do it. I’m in the middle of something else you told me to do.” She knew as well as he did that Bart could tell the worth of an item almost as well as she could. Not quite as good as she could; practice had made her better and faster at it. But they’d both been trained to know how to do it. “I’m in the middle of—”
She should have known better. Whenever she pointed something obvious out to her brother, he would resort to violence if he didn’t care for her answer. Which was usually all the time. Emma wondered if she’d ever learn and doubted it. Now she found herself on the floor with her mouth bloodied and her head hurting. Not the first time for that either.
He put the box on the desk, then pulled out his gun and laid it on her desk with it as if that was all he needed to make her comply. The punch to her face had done that pretty good, she thought. Emma wished she could pick the gun up and blow his fucking head off. Instead, she lifted her hurting body up and got back to her desk. Emma didn’t even bother wiping the blood off. He’d just hit her again to show he could.
Picking up the small box, she opened it. Inside was a small blue bag, tied at the top with an equally blue string. There were no markings on the bag or the box, but she knew quality when she felt it. And this bag wasn’t it. She started to ask Bart what kind of joke this was when she realized that he’d not answer her. He’d more than likely do what she’d wanted to do to him and shoot her. She’d be dead and he’d be standing over her demanding that she get up and do what he’d told her to do. There was no love lost between the two of them, and hadn’t been for a very long time.
Dumping the contents out into her hand, she was first surprised at the weight of the ring, then at how big it was. But the ring itself was what had her holding her breath. It was simply the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen. The work on it—and there was a great deal of it—had been done with a steady hand and an even better eye, for the art looked to her like the person who had made this loved the person who was to receive it. For a second she wondered if she would ever have someone love her that much. She looked up at Bart when he snorted at her. He looked pissed.
“It’s just a band. Nothing but a damned gold band that is worth less than my fucking shoes. I wonder if it’s even gold plated. Fuckers.” She looked at the ring, then back at him as he continued. “Fucking bastard said it was worth millions. It’s not even worth the box it came in. Why the hell do I even bother with robbing people if they’re going to lie to me about what I’m taking? Huh? And then to have fought so hard to
keep it? As if it was worth his own life? Dumbass probably believed that it was worth the money I was told it was.”
“Are you kidding me? This isn’t just a band, dumbass. This is a work of art.” She started to show him, but Bart picked up his gun and slid it back into his holster before slamming his hands down on the table, his face level with her. She leapt back from him. Which, she supposed, was what he had wanted her to do anyway. Then he laughed at her. “Don’t hurt me, Bart. Please? I’ll tell Daddy.”
“Like he gives a shit about you. I mean, look where he has you working. In the basement of a piece of shit building that has nothing to go for it but a toilet that is ten feet away.” He snorted again. “Go to him, Emma, see if I’m not right. And when he tells you to go away, I’m going to come back down here and blow your fucking brains out for bothering him. We have more important things to do than to listen to you whine about how badly you’re being treated.”
After he left her, she put the ring back in the little bag and started working on the chains that had been tangled up when Bart had simply tossed them into a bank bag. He’d told her when she asked him that it wasn’t his job to make sure that things were neat and tidy, that she would be out of a fucking job if he did. She estimated that she had about ten hours in untangling the chains so far and she wasn’t any closer to getting them straight than she had been before. Emma was pretty sure that he’d done it on purpose. It was something he loved doing, making her job more difficult.
Her father and brother had dumped her down here six years ago, pulling her from college and telling her that she had to earn her keep. Of course Emma hadn’t seen her father in all this time. Words, harsh and mean, had come from him via her brother. She was going to have to find another job soon. This one just wasn’t making it for her any longer. Of course, she blamed that on Bart too. He took money from her cash envelope every week, and he was taking more and more all the time. He called it a living tax. If he didn’t get it, she didn’t live. And she believed him too.
The ring called to her. She knew that was silly. Rings or other things didn’t talk, but she could almost hear it telling her that it didn’t belong to her and that she needed to return it to the owner. She would love to do that, but she wasn’t going to. Not that she’d have the chance to get out of this place with the thing. Being patted down and wanded every time she left would have made it impossible, but she knew that if found out, she’d be dead. Emma looked over at the desk next to hers.
Sebastian Logan had been her friend and co-worker, and the nicest man she’d ever known. Polite, hardworking, and a man who had loved his family more than he did his own life. And it was what had gotten him killed.
A diamond ring had been brought in a month ago. Bart, of course, had deemed it unworthy and had told her and Sebastian they could have it. She’d thought it was pretty but thought that Sebastian could sell it for a few dollars, and knew that it would help out in their situation. His only child was sick and that money would have gone a long way in helping him. So he’d taken the ring home to sell.
He’d come in the next day, saying that he’d gotten enough to buy a prescription that was much needed, and they had both sat down to work. An hour later, Bart and his
friend, Mark Whitaker, had come in to question Sebastian about it. Apparently a fence that they knew had mentioned that Sebastian had brought it in.
“You said I could have it. You told us it was worthless and that we could have it. Tell him, Emma. Tell him he said that.” Bart, of course, denied that, and even told Emma that their father wanted to make an example of Sebastian. Bart had pulled his gun free and had killed her friend right there in front of her, despite her begging him to let it go.
Blood had sprayed over her face and clothing. Bart had set Mark in front of her for the rest of the day while Sebastian was lying in his own blood, and told her that if she wiped her face he would put the blood back. But this time it would be her own.
All Emma wanted to do was get out of there and be her own person. Live her life as she wanted on her own terms. As soon as she could save enough money to get away, anyway. Looking at the ring again, she wondered what would happen if she were to get it to its owner. What sort of reward would there be? Because at the rate she was saving money, she’d be too old to run when she did manage to get enough to go on.
At ten after twelve, she pulled out her lunch. It was only a jelly sandwich; the peanut butter had run out a few days ago. Emma wanted to cry about what her life had become, and knew that it was as set in stone as the sword was that she’d read about so long ago.
“Put that shit away. I want you to look this over.” She only glanced at the paperwork that Bart had tossed in front of her. Her lunch time was her time, not his. She’d told him that before. Not that it mattered, but she had told him. “Now, Emma. I want to get it to Dad before the end of the day, and you fucking around is gonna make me late.”
“I’m eating. And in the event that you missed that part, I’m entitled to have one hour for my lunch. So come back when I’m done.” He drew his fist back and she tilted out her chin. “Hit me, and see if I don’t go home because of it. Go ahead, Bart, knock me around and you’ll never get this.”
“He wants it now.” Emma took a bite of her sandwich and said nothing. “You fucking cunt. You think this is going to win you any points with me? Who do you think is going to run this place when Dad finally kicks the bucket? You? Not fucking likely.”
He slammed his fists on the table again, a thing he did when he wasn’t winning an argument. Well, she’d had a shitty day so far, and right now she really did want him to hit her. She would go to her father this time.
Sweeping everything off her desk in his fit of anger, he stood over her, watching. Emma reached for the little box and the ring that had fallen out of it by bending over and leaning under her desk. Just at that moment an explosion rocked the room. There wasn’t time to think, not even to wonder what Bart had done now.
Emma felt it singe her arms and legs even as the ring slipped over the tip of her finger. She and the desk went flying back; she felt it hit her several times as heat poured into the room with her. Screams filled the air…not just hers, but her brother’s as well. Then everything went black.
Wake up. She felt rather than heard someone telling her to wake. The pain over her body told her that she’d be better off just letting things fade out again, but the voice in her head…it felt like it told her again to wake up.
“I hurt.” The voice, calmer now, told her that she’d be better if she got up and moved. “I don’t think so. I think I’m broken.”
You are not broken. Not too badly, that is. Come on now, get out of this place before the others come to find you. She had no idea why that would be a bad thing when the voice spoke again. Should they find you, then all will be lost. Come on now, Emma, you must get moving. Moving will be good for us both. No one must find you here with me.
“Both? Who is here with me? Hello?” No answer. But then she thought there shouldn’t be because as far as she knew, there was only one of her. Giggling hurt a little, so she tried to tell herself that she really did need to move.
Every time she moved something off her, there seemed to be tons more atop her. Wood and bricks. Glass surrounded her, and it seemed to be in her as well. The desk, she knew, had more than likely saved her life. Had she been sitting at it instead of nearly under it, she would have been killed. She did pause a moment to wonder if Bart had made it, but found that she really didn’t care. Bart was on his own for now.
The debris was thick around her too. Papers were everywhere, most of them still smoldering. The chair that she’d been in was a broken mess imbedded in the wall above her head.
Once she cleared herself of what she could to move, Emma could see the street beyond. Whatever had blown up had taken out the five floors above her sublevel work station. Gingerly, she made her way to the opening, only to be stopped by the voice again
No, no, not that way. Go to the back of the ruin. I’ll guide you. She turned then, not even sure why she was listening to the voice instead of common sense, but she was hurting too badly to argue with herself right now. There were people out there in front of her. She had no idea what she’d find behind her. But she made her way out the way the voice told her.
It seemed to take her too long to get out. Falling twice, she bumped her head again and had to lay there for a long time to let the dizziness stop. Emma was sick too, her belly not liking the way her vision kept going in and out all the time. And she knew that the long gash in her leg wasn’t good. The blood pouring from it was thick with dirt.
As soon as she was out of the building, she lay back against the one across from it and looked at where she’d been. There was no way she should have survived that, and she was sure that anyone else in the building hadn’t. Emma wondered who besides her brother and her were there, if anyone. And again, she wondered how the hell she had survived.
The building had been one of the oldest downtown. At five stories, it had once been the home to a textile company that had gone under in the twenties. Her father had acquired the building, along with several more, a few years ago, and had taken this one to use as an office of sorts. It was a front, like most of her father’s businesses, Bart had told her.
Emma didn’t know. Her brother never put her dad in the best picture when he talked about him. He was ruthless, a murderer, and even a thug when necessary. If he was as Bart said, he had changed a great deal since her mother had died a few years back.
The building now looked like it had never been there. A deep hole—a crater, she figured it would be called—was where it had once been. Nothing had survived on either side of it either. The two buildings that were used as storage units for whatever her father had acquired were leveled. Even the one across from the building had suffered some major damage. Emma watched as the first firetruck pulled up in front of the mess.
Your father is dead, I’m afraid. She nodded at the voice, then regretted that immediately. Your brother is alive, but he is badly burned. He and another man, his bodyguard, will be pulled from the wreckage soon, but they will not mention you are here. But they will come for you now. The others will come.
“Who will? Why?” The voice told her that it was because of him. “Him who? I don’t know anyone. I don’t date, I’m not allowed. I don’t even know why I have this voice talking to me. Do you? Am I…I don’t know, am I dead too?”
You are not dead, Emma, but they come for me. And the rest of us now that I’m awake. There will be more coming now that I’ve been found. She stood up then, determined to go and see if someone could patch her up. You do and they’ll kill you where you stand.
“Why? What did I do? This was…it was more than likely a gas explosion.” The voice told her she knew better. “No, I don’t. I don’t know a damned thing. For all I know, I could be lying there dead in that thing and this is all a dream.”
I’m not a dream, Emma Gentry. I am part of the dragon in the ring. Emma stopped moving and looked down at her hand. There it was, the ring. Just on the tip of her finger. When you slipped it upon your finger, I knew then that you were the one to carry me. The one that would take me to my owner. You will, won’t you? Take me home to the one that awaits me? The rest of me will follow now that I have found you.
“No. In the event you didn’t notice, I’m out of work, no money, and I don’t even know what is wrong with me that I can hear you talking to me. I’m hurting, injured, and you won’t let me go and find someone to fix me up.” He told her that she was the one, and that he would see that she had such riches if she did this for him. “The one what? I’m just a woman trying to get along in this world my family brought me into. Can’t you just leave me alone? Please?”
I can keep you safe. And if you promise to take me to my owner, I will help you in ways that you will need. I will, as I have said, make you a queen that will never have to worry for money again. I am but a part of the whole. A dragon that must be brought together with the other pieces of my set. Emma just wanted to take a nap. Forever. No, you will need to keep moving. The man that your brother stole me from, he will come for you because of the ring. He will want you dead because of the ring.
“Why?” He didn’t answer her and she realized that she’d been asking that a lot to the unknown. “Fine. I’m going to do this for you, but you’re going to have to do something for me. I want you to not do a damned thing for me unless it’s to guide me. I
know better than most that nothing in this world comes without consequences. So tell me where to go and nothing else.”
Nothing? She told him again that she didn’t want to owe him anything when this was done. All right. But I think that you will come to regret that soon enough.
She already did. Moving in the direction that he told her, she felt like she’d broken more bones than she knew she had. While he told her that she needed to go north, Emma told him that she needed to go to her home. There she’d get cleaned up and retrieve the last of her funds. She had no idea where she was going, but wherever it was, it wasn’t going to be a free ride. Emma thought that whoever was coming for her would think she was dead long enough for her to get out of her apartment to rid herself of the voice.
Emma knew on some level that the voice was her own. There simply wasn’t any way for her to be talking to the dragon of the ring. She wanted out and this was her subconscious getting her there. So what if the world thought her dead? She was fine with that as well. Emma Gentry was dead as far as she was concerned too, and she’d have to come up with a name that would work. As she showered and changed, cleaning up as much of the wounds on her body that she could, Emma thought of what her life would be now.
“Anything I want.” She smiled at herself and winced. The cuts on her face made even doing the simplest things hard. She did worry over the wound in her leg, but at least it was clean, and the bleeding had stopped as well…for now. As she moved out of her home, she looked around. There was nothing there, not one thing she would miss. This Emma was dead.
“Twenty-four dead and several dozen more injured in the blast that is still under investigation. There was some talk of gas leaks, but that was ruled out when it was said that the building called Shipley Textile was the epicenter of the explosion, and there were no gas lines to that building.”
Baldwin Franks wanted to throw something at the television but refrained. He was a man that prided himself on control. But the newsperson was not giving him the answers that he craved. He wanted to know if Bartholomew Gentry and his son had survived, not the dozens of nameless fucks that meant nothing to him. When the news anchor paused, pushing her finger to her ear, he wanted to scream at her that no one believed that she was listening to a fucking thing, but then she turned to the scene behind her.
“There is news just in that Mr. Bart Gentry, Junior has been pulled from the wreckage, along with another man by the name of Whitaker. That is all that we know right now. Mr. Gentry is the son of Bartholomew Gentry, Senior, a man who owned a great many of the buildings in the downtown area. Mr. Gentry and his son have been under a great deal of scrutiny for the last several years, starting with the death of the senior Mr. Gentry’s wife, Anderson Franks Gentry, some years ago. Mr. Gentry, Senior’s body, along with five more, was pulled from the building about an hour ago, I’m told.”
Baldwin leaned back in his chair as the anchor continued about the things she had little to no real information about. Gentry Senior was dead. Baldwin thought that they both should have been dead, but was sure that the man who’d survived, a man he’d come to hate more than anything, would land on his feet. Or in this case, flat on his back. The sooner the entire family was dead, the happier he’d be. They’d killed his little girl.
He looked over at his man, Steward Jefferies, and told him to get someone on it. Steward’s phone rang before he could answer Baldwin.
As the other man listened to his call, Baldwin thought of all the ways he’d wanted to make both Gentry men suffer. There had been times when he’d had Bart in his sights, but something would always come up. This time he knew he’d taken drastic measures, but the man was just where he wanted him. It was way past time to kill Bart, and he was going to be the one to do it, even if he had to do it in front of a bunch of cops.
When Steward hung up, he looked pale as he leaned back in his chair. Baldwin was almost afraid to ask him what it was, but wasn’t going to seem as if he cared. He not only was in control of things around him, he also never gave the appearance of caring much about it.
“Apparently Emma Gentry isn’t dead, as we’d been told, and was in the building when it blew.” Baldwin nearly screamed out his frustrations. Would this family never fucking end? “So far they’ve not found a trace of her in the number of dead, and she’s not on the injury list, either, that they can find. I don’t…someone saw her climbing out of the sublevel of the basement just as the police arrived. I have a man on it.”
“How do you know it was my granddaughter and not some rat climbing out of her hole after a night of fucking whatever had a dick?” Steward stood up and went to his briefcase. Pulling out the file that was on top, he handed it to him. “What is this?”
“I told you several days ago that there was rumor that Emma was alive and hiding out somewhere. We could never confirm nor deny that information, so you told me to keep on it. I had someone follow her and she lives…lived in a poor neighborhood that catered more to the people that her father worked with than his type of wealth. There wasn’t any reason to believe that she was this person, due to her living conditions, and I nearly tossed it away as just that, rumors. But then we got a picture of her just this morning. I forgot until just this minute that I had it.” Baldwin looked at the picture and felt his heart twist up in his chest. “They have some of her DNA that I’m running, but so far I’ve not heard back. But the girl in this picture looks like your daughter Anderson, doesn’t she? I don’t know why she’s been hiding out the way she has, but I intend to find out.”
“Yes.” Baldwin looked at the blurred picture of the woman. Even with the poor quality of the picture, he knew that it was her. “Call them up, rush it. I want to know now.”
He looked at Steward when he said nothing. There was more, he just knew it, and when he got the information, his well-controlled temper was going to detonate. He told him to tell him.
“The ring was in the building.” The fucking ring. The motherfucking ring was there and not where it was supposed to be. Which was with him. “Bart, the younger, took it from the courier this morning. Killed him and three other men while they were en route to us. He took not just the ring, which was the most valuable piece, but he also took the money they were bringing here. I’m guessing that it, as well as the cash, was in the building when it went up. I’m going to have his home searched, of course, but I’d not hold out much hope. The kid, for all his stupidity, seemed to know just when to lay low.”
“Why wasn’t I told about this before now?” Steward told him that he’d only just found out too. “And how do we know that it’s him? And not some random fuck that is going to die too?”
“He left you a note. Well, not you, but the person he was robbing.” Baldwin asked him what it said. “It says thank you for the money, that he really did appreciate it, and that when you sent some more this way for him, to make sure that you made the pick-up easier, as in boxes and not suitcases.”
Baldwin was happy to know that Bart had no idea what he’d found in the ring. Few ever would, and when he had all the pieces, he’d be the wealthiest and the strongest man in the world. He had only to find all six pieces to make that happen.
The legend, one as old as the earth, had fallen in his lap some time ago and he’d been searching for the pieces since. He and two other people, enemies of his, were the only ones that had an inkling as to what the jewels were really for.
“Kill him.” Steward nodded and asked about the girl. “Her too. If she is Gentry’s daughter, then she’s just as guilty for killing my daughter as the rest of them.” No witnesses were the only way to ensure that he got what he wanted in this.
It hurt him to say that, almost as much as it had when he’d been told that his lovely little girl, Anderson, had been killed when they’d thought she was her husband in the car. But the entire family needed to be purged from the earth, and if he had to murder his own flesh and blood to do so, then he would. When Steward left him, Baldwin picked up the picture again and looked at it. It was as if he were looking at his little girl again before she’d been pulled into the life of crime with her husband.
Anderson had been…well, willful didn’t begin to cover what his little girl had been. She had a mind of her own, and damn the person that had any other opinion than hers. Even he had butted heads with her from time to time, and had, in the end, decided that it was easier to give in than to fight with her. That was how she’d ended up married to his worst enemy. Bartholomew had been a thorn in his side then, and had been placed on his list of ones who needed to die when his daughter had called him from the accident she’d been in that night so long ago.
“Someone hit me. I think…I’m hurt badly.” He asked her who’d done it, his mind not fully awake when the call had come to his home in the middle of the night. “Bartholomew. Help me. I don’t know yet what’s going on, but I don’t want to die.”
Baldwin could hear the sirens then, the men coming to rescue his little girl, knowing that it was going to be too late for her. She told him that she was sorry that she
couldn’t hang on for him. Then the line had gone dead; his little girl was gone from him forever.

Willow The James Children Chapter Four 2/2/16

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00072]


~Chapter 4~
Willow avoided him completely on Tuesday and Wednesday. On Thursday, she had to take the morning off to have the stitches removed and didn’t get to work until after eleven. By the time she’d caught up on her mail and fielding calls from vendors, she was nearly five hours behind. At six o’clock, the last truck left the lot and she was on the first floor covering seams with mud on the newly hung drywall. She’d thought about Robert all week and wondered for the hundredth time what he’d been about to do. Kiss her? She certainly would have let him at that moment and gotten angry with herself all over. No matter how appealing it was, kissing her employees was out of the question. If it ever was a possibility. She snorted to herself and turned the volume up on her book. It was nearly eleven when she got to her house. Exhausted and dirty, she stripped down to her boxer briefs and bra in the kitchen and tossed the whole load in the washer. One more day, she thought. Then she’d have two days off in a row. Then she remembered her dinner date with her parents. “Fuck, fuck fuck.” Standing in the kitchen listening to the washer fill, Willow wondered if she could get out of it. She was running ideas through her head when her phone rang. It was one of her parents, as they were the only ones with this number. “Hello, parental unit. How’s it hanging?” She smiled when her father sputtered on the other end. “You ever check your messages, young lady? Your mother has been frantic.” Willow smiled bigger. Her mother didn’t get frantic, her dad did. “I’ve been having a torrid affair with the milk man and he keeps strange hours. He had to keep me a secret from his wife and eight kids.” Willow burst out laughing at her dad’s “smart ass,” but he went on without any more comments about her mom. “This dinner thing tomorrow night, I’ll expect you here on time and without a stitch of flannel on. Ghastly attire you’ve gotten into the habit of wearing.” There went her hopes of getting out of it. “I had a dress made of just that material too. Now what will I wear? Maybe if you’re really nice to me and tell me the name of the man mom and you have set me up with this time, I’ll know what to wear.” She had a number of clothes that would deter even the quickest hands. Her dad snorted, a nice habit she’d taught him to do. “Your mother has two set up. Well, one from each of us. Miscommunication or some other stupid reason. I distinctly remember her telling me to invite young Nathan, but now she swears that she didn’t. That ugly boy Taylor is coming too.” Willow laughed. “He’s not ugly, Dad. He’s unique.” Boy was he ever. “Willow, the man has the biggest ears I’ve ever seen. Why, in a good storm, a wind would pick him up and he’d be on the space station in a matter of minutes. And that laughter…sounds like a bull horn going off.” Willow did agree about the laughter, but could only laugh more. She loved her parents very much and was a daddy’s girl too. She and her mom had been best friends since she’d discovered, at age ten, that her mother hid a wicked sense of humor and a sharp wit. They had never had the usual problems most families had. Willow even enjoyed the company of her older brother Alexander.
“So,” she stretched out the word. “I suppose you’d probably prefer it if I didn’t marry Taylor. And since Nathan won’t have me, then I guess I’m safe for the night.” Willow waited for the explosion and wasn’t disappointed. “What do you mean he ‘won’t have you?’ Why that man would be damned lucky if you gave him the time of day. Won’t have you—why, men would be lining up if you’d pay them the slightest attention. Why won’t he have you? I’ll tear him apart for saying such a thing.” “Because, my dearest defender, I don’t have the equipment he prefers in a sexual partner. And I’m pretty sure he has one. A partner, I mean.” The silence at the other end was profound. She opened the icebox and waited while she tried to remember the last time Marta, her housekeeper, friend, and cook, had bought groceries. Marta Priest was due back tomorrow, thank goodness. Willow had missed her while she’d been on vacation. But putting up with Willow, she figured the woman needed a break. The house seemed incredibly empty and not just of food, but also Marta’s sage advice and her smart-assed answers. Marta was the daughter of Willow’s parents’ cook, Shasta. Her dad, she knew, was sorting thought the information no doubt trying to figure out a way to still marry her off. She knew he wouldn’t care about Nathan being gay. That had nothing to do with either their friendship, or hers to him for that matter. But he would try to salvage something out of this. “Willow, honey, where do you get—never mind. I’m sure as your father I just don’t want to know.” The heavy sigh made her smile. “All right then, we’ll just be a bunch of friends and family getting together. Your brother is going to try and make it in, but he said he couldn’t guarantee anything at this point. And you stay away from that Taylor boy. I won’t have you getting with child by him. Birthing one of his children with those ears could kill you.” Willow hung up a little while later after her dad went on then about her brother and how her mother despaired of the day he’d have a baby. She didn’t even tell him that Alex having a child would be harder than her birthing Taylor’s kid, but let it go. She was too tired to even open a can of soup, had there been one in the house to do so. She was trudging up the stairs to her bedroom when she decided she’d go to the store Saturday on her way home if Marta didn’t. Pulling a small pad of paper and a pen to her as she laid down, she made a note of things to get. She hated shopping for food almost as much as she hated to do laundry. Which was why, she thought with a huge yawn, she had about seventy pairs of underwear and that many t-shirts too. She fell asleep with the pen still in her hand along with the pad of sticky notes. When she woke the next morning at four, she was covered in sticky notes and ink blotches. As she stripped off her sheets, she made herself a mental note to buy pencils and then discarded that idea almost immediately. It would be just her luck she’d end up with lead poisoning if she slept with a pencil. After taking a long shower, she made her way to the closet. Willow had purchased the house at an estate auction. Her parents had helped her get the loan. Even with all her money and a job, the bank didn’t want to loan money to a then seventeenyear-old kid. But she had paid the loan back on time and had also been able to get a second loan on her own since then. The house for the most part had been in great shape. The lawns were the worst she’d ever seen, but she’d enjoyed bringing them back to life. All the bushes had to be pulled up and instead of replacing them as the local nursery had suggested, Willow planted bulbs and perennials and flowering fruit trees. She had made the cover of Architectural Digest last fall for her grounds alone.
The yard in the back had been useless so Willow had had a large in-ground pool put in along with a pool house and a little cottage for Marta to live in. Willow spent a great deal of time in the back yard in the warmer months and even the cooler ones since she’d had the pool heated. Willow simply loved the outdoors. The third floor of the house was finished, as it was where her room was. The original house had had four bedrooms on the third floor and six on the second with a single bathroom per floor. Now after three years, there was a master suite complete with fireplace, sitting area, and an office. Both bedrooms had massive bathrooms as well. The master bath had a large shower stall, as well as a sunken tub. She loved its jets and when she was able to use it, lit candles to set all around the glass block shelves that formed the outside wall. The toilet and sink were separated from the tub by another wall of glass blocks. She’d had to order the porcelain in the room, as it was a dark cobalt blue, so that the sink, toilet, counter top, and tub all were dark against the blue and white tile of the floor. The shower stall was surrounded in the glass and some had been filled with a blue gas that seemingly moved inside. As one stepped back toward the bedroom, there was a closet complete with dresser that sat back to back to each other. They split the room in half and divided the closet perfectly. She hadn’t wanted to put in two dressers, but her mother pointed out that if she ever sold the house to buy something bigger or something to play with, she would have a better chance of selling it for a couple. Willow loved her bedroom with its twelve foot ceilings and top to bottom windows. The two outside walls both had two each. Since there was no need for a closet in this room, Willow built the headboard into the wall and made sure it had all the comforts she wanted, including the size of the custom mattress at one and a half the size of a regular king. The small end tables pulled out and there was a gun safe behind one and a fire proof safe behind the other. She had them both filled with her things. Most nights when she came home from work, it was all she could do to put the gun back in the safe because she never left the site until well after dark. There was a gas fireplace in the wall directly across from the bed and a sofa and two wing backed chairs as well. There was also a work area, though Willow never used it, but it had been a suggestion from her dad and since she let her mom talk her into the double dressers, she went with the workstation to appease the man. He had blustered for days about it. The other bedroom, only marginally smaller than the one she slept in, had the same type of headboard, but there was no bed. She used that room strictly for storage and nothing more. After she was dressed, Willow went to her office. The second floor had taken her the most time. It had been her plan to reduce the number of bedrooms down to two as well, but had taken out two of the rooms and added baths that each set of bedrooms shared. She’d taken out the smallish closets and replaced them with large walk-ins that were well-lit and spacious. The bedrooms were finished for the most part. Carpet had been taken up and the floor sanded and finished. But the woodwork, wide ceiling molding, and overhead fans needed to be hung, and the furniture, all antiques, had to be put back in place. Most of it was in storage in the garage. The first floor had a grand entrance with wide double doors and stained glass windows down either side of it. The parquet floors replaced the worn tile and Willow had talked her parents into the beautiful chandelier she’d wanted for the ceiling last Christmas. There was a huge living room that was devoid of anything—not even pictures on the wall. She didn’t spend any time in there so was in no rush to furnish it.
The dining room was big enough to hold the cherry and walnut table she’d bought with its fourteen chairs and the massive hutch that held some of her collection of snowmen. She didn’t use this room much either. There was her office, which had been the first room finished, and she thought it reflected her tastes perfectly. A hodgepodge, her mother had called it, but Willow loved it. This room was as big if not bigger than some living rooms, though smaller than the two bedrooms in the house. The computer desk had been custom built by her and stained and polished by her dad. The desk was a rich cherry and shone brightly in the sunny room. The wall over the desk and down both sides held shelves and a filing cabinet each. The shelves were overflowing with books of all kinds, styles, and genres. Willow was an eclectic reader and her books reflected that. Alongside signed first editions were dog-eared paperbacks as well as comic books and magazines. She simply loved the written word. The kitchen was mostly complete and would be as soon as Marta told her what else it needed. Willow didn’t cook, hated the task so much so that she would gladly live off pizza and take out before she’d ever try her hand at it. She and her dogs spent most of their time when she was home in the family room off from the kitchen. By just after seven, she was just finishing up with her last email when someone knocked at her door. Not expecting anyone or anything, she went to the door and opened it, ready to blast anyone who dared bother her on a Friday morning. With a squeal of delight, she launched herself into her brother’s chest. ~o0o~ Jared wandered through the house the realtor was showing him. This one, like the other four he’d been through, wasn’t what he wanted. He wasn’t sure what that was, but this wasn’t it. He came down the stairs no longer listening to the man…something Jones was clattering on about the houses charms. Jared had a mental list. Number one on the list was a large kitchen—a large, working kitchen. One he could move around in, entertain if he wanted, and to make love on the counter if Willow was in the mood. The realtor, William, Jared suddenly remembered, bumped into him when he suddenly stopped. Willow in the mood? Where the hell had that come from? “You all right, Mr. Stone?” Was he? No and hell no he wasn’t all right. He tried to shake off the uncomfortable shaft of desire that had him burning with a sudden need for the prickly woman. He’d had the most incredible vision of her wrapped around him as he pounded into her heat on the top of dark green counters. Jared turned and looked at the man. “This is nothing like what I gave you to find for me and we both know it. If you take me to one more overpriced house you are trying to get rid of then I will find another realtor. Go over the list again and contact me when you have some that I will consider. I have neither the time nor the patience for this. Understand?” This was not how Jared wanted to spend his Friday night. “Yes, sir. I’m sorry, sir. But the market has been—” Jared cut him off with a raised brow. “Of course,” William went on. “I’ll set you up for more of what you had in mind next week.” “This weekend if possible.” Jared walked out the front door and got into his car. He’d had enough. Monday morning he was going to confront the woman and tell her she was fired and to fire that Talbor. It was the surest way of getting her out of his system. And his dreams. That made
him think of the dream he’d had of her last night, the one where he’d done all sorts of decadent things to the lovely Miss James. Slamming his hand against the steering wheel, he growled in frustration. And when he got home, he was calling every woman on his phone and exorcising Willow from his mind. He was frustrated, that was all. He needed to get laid. Somehow, as he pulled into his driveway, he knew that wasn’t it at all.


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Trent: Calhoun Men By Kathi S Barton Release Day & Winner Announced 1/11/16

Calhoun Men 

Elijah (Coming May 2, 2016) 
Scott (Coming Soon) 
Sterling (Coming Soon) 
Randal (Coming Soon) 
Tanner (Coming Soon) 

Johanna, better known as Joe, had been a day walker for her only friend, Noah, for centuries. An immortal with eight hundred years under her belt, she had become proficient in several languages and occupations. When her friend Noah talked about meeting the sun, she had every intention of following in his path. 

Joe had only gone to the Calhoun’s office to catch a ride to the estate. When she entered, it took her breath away to see the younger man on the floor and no one doing a damn thing to help him. 

Trent Calhoun had forgotten how to have fun. Diving into his work was what kept him happy. At 33 he had no life, so when he had a heart attack, his doctor said to change his ways or else. 

When the gorgeous woman stumbled into his hospital room, Trent thought his dad was up to his old tricks again―that was until he caught her scent…. Now, because of his wolf, he’s face to face with an angry vampire…. 

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Winner  of a mystery paperback  is  Donna ______ no last name 
congrats please see email on how to claim 
Happy Reading 
Kathi S Barton 
1224 AD Johanna, Joe to her few friends, moved as quickly as she could to the heap of trash that had been put out only moments ago. It might have been filled with nothing more than a few scraps of food, but it would be enough to fill the hole that seemed to be forever in her belly. And maybe if she was lucky enough, she’d find a pair of shoes with only a few holes in them, or a coat. But before she could get close enough to see, she saw Abraham and another man. It did not look to her as if they were friends. At first she thought they were having relations. It wouldn’t surprise her if they were. Abraham would do most anything for a bit of coin or food. She did not care for the man overly much, but she would help to keep him safe even if the man didn’t seem to think he needed her. But before she could move around the two of them, she saw that Abraham held a man at knife point. The man he held she did not know, but she did know what he was. A vampire. There were plenty of them about now, feeding on ones such as herself and Abraham when they needed food. While she knew very little about his kind, she did know that he would kill the man that held him if he only moved just a little. Looking into his eyes, she spoke to him. “Please do not harm him.” The man stilled in his slight struggle to look at her. “He is only hungry, as are the rest of us, and would otherwise leave you alone.” “He has a bit of coin, Joe. More than we could have a fine meal on. I’ll share it with you should you help me. I promise I will this time.” Joe looked at Abe and shook her head. “You just stand there and I’ll slice his throat and we’ll find us a meal, you and me.” “Abe, this man has done nothing to you save come to this place of death and sadness. Let him go before he hurts you.” To the man, she spoke again. “Please. Do not harm him. He is not a nice person, but he is all that I have here.” Blood moved down the handsome man’s throat, staining the collar of his white silk shirt. Joe knew that just the cost of his shirt would have fed her and Abe for many days. His small nod was all she needed to let out the breath that she’d been holding. Looking at Abe again, she took a step toward him, speaking softly, her hand guiding his away from the throat of the stranger. “You don’t want to kill him, Abe. Should you do that, the food that you eat from this will taste bitter and will make you sick for a long while. You know this.” Abe growled at her, telling her to go away. “I cannot and you know that. Should this man kill you for what you have done, then I will have one less person that I know here, and I have so few now. Please, let him go so that you and I can go to the dump that is still warm from the house.” She didn’t think he was going to do it. He looked determined, his face set. When his belly growled, hers did as well. It was a sound that she was sick of. When Abraham 
stomped his foot at her, she wanted to remind him that he was a grown man and that he should act like one. “I need a fine meal, Joe. I was never meant to be like this. I am a great man.” She’d heard the stories before. He’d come from a grand house, the servant to a great man. But it was, like other stories she’d heard in her life, a lie. A fabrication of something that was a dream to him, a way to make him seem more important than he really was. But his lies, like his stories, had long since given her a headache. Joe had given up on dreams. They were useless without any way of making them a reality. “I will make his death quick if that would make you feel better.” “Nay, it will not and you will know it.” Joe glanced at the man, who watched her carefully. “Allow this man to go about his business. Perhaps he will give you a coin or two for your troubles. Would you let him go for that?” “I should have it all.” Joe shook her head and told him to be reasonable. “I am not going to let him go without all his coin, Joe. You cannot ask me to do such a thing. It has been years since—” “Then I will quit you.” He looked at her then. “I will no longer come to your aid should you become ill again. I will not give you a part of my blanket when I have none to share with even myself. You will be on your own. And you know that no one else will help you either, Abe. You have made many enemies here.” Taking the last two steps to the two of them, she put her hand on Abe’s hand again. When he didn’t fight her, she moved the handmade silver blade from the man’s throat, but did not look at him. As soon as he was free he leapt from them, then fell to the ground. Joe stood in front of Abe. “Please don’t harm him. He is starved.” The man held his neck and nodded while blood poured from between his fingers. She knew that he would die soon. No matter what he was he should get himself healed or he would bleed out and die there as the sun came up to take him. “I will trade myself for him.” “Send him away.” The voice was cultured, hard, and full of hate. Her fear of the man, now that he was free, doubled. “Send him away, Joe, and come to me.” Nodding, she turned to Abe and then back to the man. “Coin. Do you have a coin or two that you can spare to give to him? I should hate to have lied to him.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a very beautiful change purse. She could tell that it had been made with a fine hand, and that the beading work alone was done by someone who loved their job. If only she could have such a job. Shutting down that thought, she reached for the three coins in his palm and took only the two that she’d promised Abe he could have. The man grabbed her hand before she could move away. “Give them all to him.” She shook her head and turned to Abe. Giving him the two gold coins, she turned back to the man when he said her name. “Why did you not take the three of them, if only to have one for yourself?” “I did not say that I would take one for myself. I do not lie. No matter how hungry I am.” He nodded, his face pale now. “What do I need to do to help you?” “You would still come to me, even with your friend safe?” She told him that Abe was not her friend. “Then pray, why did you save him?” 
“I did not want him dead by your hand. I do not want anyone dead by your hand. Your kind have been killing us off for years, and I should like to be able to think I have saved one. Even if it was just Abe the thief.” He nodded but said nothing more. “What do you need of me?” “You know what I am, so you know what I need.” She nodded and moved closer to him. “Come to me. I should like to have you drink from my wound if only to draw some of the poison that Abe has put inside of me. The silver of it even now is racing in my veins to kill me.”  He was weaker than she’d thought. But she knew that even in his weakened state, he could still kill her. Once, not long ago, she’d seen one of his kind tear a man’s head off even with a stick protruding from his belly. And then he’d stood and pulled it from him as he drank greedily from another that stood too close. Moving to sit on the ground near him, Joe leaned into his neck and could smell his soap. Not that she’d had any chance to have such a thing. She tried her best to make her way to the river at least once a week, no matter what the weather was, to clean herself and her clothing as best she could.  As soon as she put her mouth over the large cut, he curled his hand in the back of her head and pulled her tightly against him. His blood didn’t taste as she’d thought it might. There was a coppery tang to it, but it was warm and filled her belly nicely. Trying not to think of what she was doing, she lifted her head from his neck when he lifted her and fitted her over his lap. Her legs on either side of his hips, she was in a position that she was sure was going to get her raped if not killed. “I shall not take what is not freely given to me.” Nodding, she watched his eyes as they darkened. “If you are coming when I drink from you, I will not need as much to fill me to heal. Do you know what I am asking you to do?” “You wish to have sex with me?” He nodded, then shook his head. “I do not understand you. Should you not like to have sex with me? I am free of diseases. Not that I wish to have it with you, but I did give myself to you in Abe’s place.” “I only wish for you to come for me. Have your pleasure as if we were having sex.” Joe still had no idea how that worked. “And I am aware of your body. Not only are you free of anything that would kill you, but you are a virgin as well. I would guess you have had to work very hard to keep yourself in such a state.” “There are not a lot of men that wish to touch someone such as me.” He asked her why. “I’m not what is considered a very well-endowed woman. I am…too skinny, and most think me a boy.” “You are not a boy, and that would not stop most men that I know should you have happened to be one.” He watched her face and she felt herself heat in embarrassment. “You are very strange, Joe. A human that would help a vampire even though you know that it could cost you your life.” “I have not much of one anyway, my lord. This is all that I have.” He pulled her body to his again; this time she could feel his hardness. “You wish me to come, but as you have said, I have no knowledge of how this will work.” 
“I will do the work, little one. You will be my savior and I will give you pleasure.” His laughter made her hurt with anger, but he only pulled her to him again. “I should like nothing more than to show you the delights of having me inside of you, but if I do not feed from you soon, I will still be here when the sun rises. Tilt your head for me and I shall bring you to peak. Your blood will be much stronger and tastier for it.” Tilting her head as he had directed her to, Joe felt the heat of his breath on her. When his tongue lapped at her pounding pulse, she put her hands on his shoulders to hold on for the pain of what he was going to do. As surely as she was sitting atop the man, she knew that he was going to kill her. The bite was gentle, almost like a deep kiss. And when he drew deeply on her throat, taking her blood into his mouth, she moaned before she could think that he’d hear her. As he pulled her to him again, she could feel his hardness getting thicker, his manhood touching something deep within her even though she was as dressed as he was. When he commanded her to come, Joe found herself rolling her hips up to his body, riding him, she supposed. The feeling that he was giving her, the way that his hardness kept pressing against her womanhood, made her hold tighter to him. She knew that something was going to happen and it was going to tear her apart. As soon as she felt it take her, the feeling that she’d been reaching for, her scream of release—for that was all she could think of it being—nearly had her sobbing. ~~~ Noah drank deeply of her. She tasted like a fine wine to him, her blood spiked with her release as well as the virginity of her body, something he’d not had in more years than he could remember. As she rode him faster, coming again and again, he knew that he could take her, slam his cock deep within her and she’d let him. But, like her, he’d made a promise, and Noah prided himself on his word. But to have her, all of her, was making him greedy for more. When she went limp in his arms, he knew that he’d taken too much from her weak and starved body. And the numerous releases had taken their toll on her. He had to save her, even if it was from herself. Sealing the wound at her throat, he looked at her. She was pretty in a too thin sort of way. And the fact that she believed that men thought her a boy had him thinking that she had something inside of her that kept her from harm. But someday, and he’d bet soon, she would run out of whatever it was and she would be as dead as most of the humans in this part of town. Laying her beside him on the ground, Noah stood up and took to the skies to free himself of the stench of the man who had held him. He should have killed the man, and it had been his intention. But he’d heard her coming toward them and had paused to see if she’d be a tastier meal. When she pleaded so prettily for the man’s life, not only had Noah been impressed, but he’d been curious as well. Especially when she’d told him that the man was not her friend. Going back to the place he’d left her, Noah did the only thing he could do…he picked her up in his arms and took her to his home. 
“My lord.” His butler and friend Michael looked at the woman, then backed away from her. She did smell, but not as badly as he’d smelled many times before. “You have killed her? And why, pray tell, have you brought her body here?” “Nay. I have brought her here because…well, I’m not sure why I have. But I should like to have her fed and well bathed. She saved my life tonight.” Michael looked at him, then at the girl with a new kind of interest. “Had she not taken my blood into hers to drain the poison of silver from my body, then fed me, you would have been without a master and I would be like the dust that is now on my boots.” He carried her up to the second floor. Michael was asking him what had happened, and he told him everything. The man had been in his service for many years and there was nothing that the man did not know about him. He was, in a word, his friend. His only one, he supposed. Noah didn’t know why he’d never been into nests of his kind. But as soon as he was able, he’d left his home, the one his father was the lord of, and set out to find his own way. Never once had it occurred to him to gather his own bunch of vampires to live and be with him, preferring to be in his own home with servants that he trusted. That had been nearly five centuries ago, and in all that time he’d lived alone but for the five people in his household. Each of them humans at one time, and as loyal to him as he was them. “I shall have someone come and bring her something clean to wear. Perhaps we can borrow a few things from the cook in the meantime.” Noah nodded as he lay her on the large bed, looking bigger for the fact that she was so tiny.  “She is very tall, is she not?” Yes, Noah thought, she was very tall, but still very small in that she was thin. Much too thin. “I will have the cook make her something to eat. It will be strange, my lord, having her here.” “It will be.” Pulling the blanket up and over her body, it occurred to Noah that he’d never said she was going to live there, but now that it was said, he realized that had been his intention all along. To help her as she had him. “Michael, what do you suppose we should do with her? She is…she is very protective of anyone, even me.” “I should think she’d make a wonderful day walker for you, my lord. You know that the household would do anything for you, but it would lessen our burden a little should we have her to do that job for us.” Noah only looked at his friend with a cocked brow. “I am not saying that we do not love doing it, but she needs to have a job and this would be a good one for her. I have not met her, but I would be willing to bet that she will need a purpose or she will not stay.” It was funny that Michael would know that about her. She would, too, need a job to keep her busy, or she’d think she was taking advantage of him. Or him her. And he might need her again, just to replenish himself. But he’d never spoil her. That was not his to take, and he would never do that to her. Tempting as she was, he was a man of honor. 

Willow The James Children Chapter Three Grab this for FREE !!!!!!!!!!1/10/16

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Kathi S. Barton Author
#darkfantasy #erotica #romance
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~Chapter 3~
Jared was ready to begin work by Monday. Actually, he’d decided to head out when he returned to Ohio on Sunday afternoon. He was surprised when he got there that there was a truck in the parking lot. He could see someone in the site trailer, but didn’t know who so he parked on the street and walked around the yard and building shell. The walls were in, but only some of the interior wiring was finished on the third floor office building. Jared knew from the weekly reports that the electricians were due to bring in extra crew to finish the job by the end of the week. Bricking off the outside of the façade was nearly done with just one more wall nearly to completion. Going in through one of the boarded up doors, he stepped into a large, open area. The building was slated for a single company and the drywall was being put up to make the individual rooms on the lower floors. Most of the first floor wasn’t finished so he walked to the stairs to go to the top floors and make his way down. He smiled when he got to the second level. Stone prided itself on the way they finished a building. The crews would finish the top floors first then work down and out. He noticed that the upper floor, the topmost level, was just awaiting mud work on the seams of the hung drywall. In the four rooms up here, two of them had been painted and of those, one had the ceiling completed. Jared was touring the second floor when he was stopped by a deep, hard voice. “You got a reason to be hanging around a closed construction site? ‘Cause if not, then I suggest you get the fuck outta here.” Jared turned around slowly. He didn’t know the man behind him and didn’t know what the man might have pointed at him, like another bat or a gun. Jared was surprised to see two people standing there. One was the man from the bar; Conley, if he remembered correctly. The other was Willow. His first thought was that she looked exhausted, then he noticed her face. Christ, she was bruised. He caught himself before he went to her. Then he really took a better look. She was taller than he remembered at about five-foot, ten inches. She was also very beautiful. Even with her bruised eye and lip, she still looked like every man’s dream, both sexy and innocent at the same time. Her eyes were clear, a shade of blue so light that he knew they were as unique as the woman was. A small patrician nose and high cheekbones gave the impression of a model, but for some reason, Jared knew she’d scoff at the notion. Willow’s hair was pulled back again; its rich, dark color looked blue-black under the harshness of the bulbs hanging from unfinished fixtures. Today she had on just a t-shirt and jeans; the flannel, he realized now, had hidden a great deal of the woman. Full breasts strained the shirt and her muscled arms looked like she was a working foreman rather than an office one. Her jeans hung low on her full hips and curved over her thighs like a second skin. Tears at the knees and one at the thigh were not from some manufacturer’s idea of what worn jeans looked like, but from actual work. Jared found himself wanting to ask her to turn around so that he could see if her ass looked as good as he remembered. Conley clearing his throat had Jared look back at him. He knew in that moment that the other man knew just where Jared’s thought had been. “I start working here tomorrow. I’m Jared Robert.” He reached for his wallet, suddenly glad he’d had new identities made with his partial name on them. “Miss Kensal set it up. I was just seeing where I’d be working.”
Conley took his driver’s license and with a quick glance, handed it to Willow. She looked, but made no comment as she handed it back to Jared. “I’m Will James, the foreman here. This is my second in command, Thomas Conley.” She cocked her head at him. “You were at the bar last weekend…Monday, in the back room when…” She looked up at Conley. “Yeah. I’d just come home from another job. I’m here to fill in work until the job is complete. You should have been notified sometime last week that I was coming.” At least he hoped so. “Yeah, got it Friday. Work begins here at eight on Monday, Robert, not Sunday afternoon. You’re lucky no one shot you. Conley, show Robert the lay of the land then both of you get the hell off my job site. I got shit to do and I don’t need a babysitter.” Willow looked pointedly at Conley and he smiled back at her. “Okay, boss. But you’ll call if you…you know.” She nodded at Conley and left them standing there. Jared and Conley stood watching each other until they heard the board move back over the opening again. It was quiet for a full minute before Conley spoke. “She ain’t gonna like that you lied to her. She’s real big on honesty.” Jared didn’t say anything, but was shocked. “You and I met about five years ago at a company function. You here to fire her or to congratulate her?” A man that got to the heart of things. Jared liked him instantly. “Neither, for now. I’m here to work, like I said, and to see what’s going on. We’ve gotten a few…quite a few complaints about her.” Jared studied the man standing before him. “Are you going to tell her?” Conley looked down the stairs before answering. “Nope. Not my place. But I won’t help you either. Don’t come to me about information on her. I won’t help you either way. But know this, if she asks me, I will tell her.” Conley looked down the stairs again. “If you want my opinion, I think sending in a spy for your old man is about as low as it comes. I’m sure you know your way around your own site, Robert.” And with that, he left. The same dirty truck was in the lot the next morning. There were any number of others there, a car and two motorcycles as well. Jared wasn’t sure which vehicle was Willow’s or Conley’s, but he parked next to a truck that made him wonder if the driver lived it in. There were enough fast food wrappers and cola cans that he was sure they could fill a large land fill. With a shake of his head, he went to the trailer where several men and Willow were standing. It was just past seven-thirty. “…Sherman on floor two. I want those walls primed for Wednesday A.M. when the painters get here. Viktor and Jacobs, you’re to get the ceilings done on the top floor. There are…” Willow looked down at the clip board in her hand before she continued. “Seven on the second and the entire entrance this week. If you have time, I want you to begin the second floor as well. There are some more lights that go in there that the owner had decided to add. This is Robert, Jared Robert, and he’ll be with Thomason and Ruby on the set of the stone in the main entrance and office of the president. The rest of you get the drywall hung. Anything else?” “You didn’t assign me nothing, boss.” The voice was heavy with scorn and he had sneered her title like it was a dirty word. Jared turned to see the man behind him. He knew who he was, Talbor. The man had both his eyes still blackened, but probably not as bad as it had been. Jared wanted to laugh at the squat man, but didn’t want to get off on the wrong foot this early in the job.
“Have you finished the clean up?” Willow didn’t look at her list for him. “I told you on Tuesday and then Wednesday that was your job until it was complete. I was told I had to work you. Doesn’t mean I have to find you something constructive you can fuck up. Now you—” “I ain’t no fucking maid service. You put me to work inside, out of the sun, or I’ll tell my daddy that you ain’t complying to the arrangement.” Jared, as did everyone else, turned back to the man. “You ain’t fucking gonna get away with this soon as Stone finds out what I have to tell him.” Willow laughed at the man’s threat. “You ever get tired of that same litany every time you don’t get your way, Talbor? Your daddy bailing your ass out all the time? Clean up or I’ll cite you for failure to do your job.” She walked away even as he kept the insults up. The men didn’t say anything either, but simply went to their assigned jobs. Jared wasn’t sure if she had told them not to speak or they just didn’t care. At this point, he wasn’t sure what to think either. He followed the two men who went into the building to the main hall. Laying stone was usually left for a mason on a building site. Jared had been taught how to lay the stone when he’d still been in high school and knew that it was on his application that Willow had received from Sarah. He was really good at it too. He knew from the file on the men working here that both the men he was working with were masons and they wasted no time getting set up and to work. The sub flooring had already been sectioned off into four even squares with a snap chalk line. It started at the middle of each of the four walls and met in the center of the room to form a large X. It would be the starting point for them to work with. Ruby set Jared to work spreading the mortar after he asked Jared if he’d ever done it before. Jared had the thin-set mortar spread over about a four foot square area. The mortar needed to be in a combed pattern so they could follow the lines in the floor to keep the lines straight. As the men began laying the design of colored stone tile, putting spacers between each one to keep an even grout line, they began to talk. “You gonna be replacing one of us or you just here to fill in? Got my hopes on the first part so long as it ain’t me, you understand.” Ruby sounded like he hailed from the Deep South. There was a soft cadence about his voice that was soothing and funny at the same time. Jared knew he was from Atlanta and that Thomason, the other man, was from California. “Nah. Just helping out. I’ve been out of town for a while and this gig came up so I jumped on it.” his cover story was as close to the truth as he could give without giving away who he was. “I was missing home so I thought what the hell.” The men worked in silence for the most part after that. Twice he heard Willow’s voice and once he’d caught a glimpse of her as she strode by the room, but she never stopped to speak to them. He was impressed that she didn’t micromanage her people, but for a reason he didn’t want to think about, was aggravated that she didn’t. They were breaking for lunch when he saw her again. She was directing a delivery truck to one of the many site storage units. It was a tractor trailer loaded with drywall and buckets of what he assumed was plaster. He watched her as she walked over to a forklift and strapped in when the truck was parked. As she began to unload the heavy pallets, Jared felt someone come up behind him and wasn’t surprised that it was Shawn Talbor.
“She’s a fucking bitch, you know. Thinks her shit don’t stink. I fucking hate her.” his voice was low but full of hatred. Without turning around, Jared asked him, “Then why do you work here? Seems to me there are plenty of other construction companies around you could sign on with. Most or all of them would welcome someone from Stone Construction.” Which wasn’t true. Word was that Stone was difficult to get hired on to, but if you left on your own, you were either stupid or retiring. Jared knew that they paid top dollar and treated their employees with respect. The answering laugh sent a chill down Jared’s spine. “’Cause it would make her day. I’ll stick around. ‘Sides, Daddy said if I play my cards right, I’ll have her job before much longer. But she’s been fucking that old man Stone for years and got herself buried in like a tick. Only reason she got this far is ‘cause she gives good head.” Jared didn’t turn now because had he done so, he would have killed the man. His parents were the most faithful people he knew and his father had never had an affair. He knew this because his mother told him that as long as he was alive, then she knew this for a fact. She claimed, and Jared didn’t doubt her, that no one would ever find his body if he even thought about having one. “Course you can ask any man here about that too. ‘Specially Conley. Them two been going at it for months. Heard tell she prefers married men to the single ones. Why I don’t stand a chance with her, not that I’d touch some man’s seconds.” With that and his maniacal laughter, he left Jared to go to the lunch wagon. Jared ate with the other men. Willow emptied the flatbed while they did. Most watched her; a couple of them wandered over then came back. Jared wondered if they set up duties or offered to help. He wasn’t sure why what Talbor said bothered him so much. It wasn’t as if he was dating her or anything. After lunch, he went to the upper floors before going back to work on the tile. The second floor had been less than a quarter finished with hanging the drywall last night. Today all but one wall was hung and it was being done now. Willow was setting a screw to the last one as he stood watching her. ~o0o~ Willow had a set of headphones on and was listening to a book. She didn’t particularly care for music, but needed something to drown out the constant hammering and other things going on. It really was too bad the book wasn’t working. When she got the last sheet into place and the last screw set, she turned to get her pail and trowel. She was startled to see the new guy there. She pulled off the headphones. “Something I can help you with, Robert?” She looked around and found they, for the most part, were coming along. “You just looking around again?” He’d been leaning against the doorjamb, but straightened now. There was something about the man that made her nervous. It wasn’t his height, though that was impressive at about sixfoot-six. It was something…manly, she thought, that made her feel weird. He looked like one of those guys on the cover of one of the books, Shasta, her mother’s cook, read. She called them bodice rippers and the men looked like they could take on the world. “No,” he said as he moved closer. “I was just wondering what you’re doing. Didn’t see you at lunch and thought maybe you had a picnic or something up here.” Willow wanted desperately to back away, but stood her ground. “No, just me. I don’t usually stop for…shouldn’t you be on the tile job?” Anywhere but here, she thought.
He reached up and plucked at her hair and showed her the plaster he’d removed. “We’re waiting on the stone to be delivered. Supposed to be on the way.” Willow nodded as she watched his fingers roll the plaster between them. His fingers were incredibly long and so slender. She couldn’t help but think about them touching her. And her skin heated. This man worked for her. She looked up at his face when his fingers stopped moving. It was a beautiful face, strong jaw line, straight, narrow nose. The stubble on his face was dark and begged to be touched to see if it was soft or hard. His eyes were a dark brown, like hot cocoa made with melted dark chocolate rather than with cocoa. His hair was a warm brown and curly at the ends. He wore it long and he had it pulled to the nape of his neck in a pony tail that was probably six inches long. His voice, when he spoke to her now, was dark, low, and made her body tingle. “How’s your mouth, Willow?” He ran his thumb over her lower lip and asked her again. “Fine. Sore. I’ve had worse.” She took a step back then another when he stepped toward her. “You should go back to work.” Her own voice was like nothing she’d ever heard before. She didn’t know what he might have said, but a shout from the lower level had them both back apart. Willow had never been so glad for the noise in her life.


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Kathi S. Barton Author
#darkfantasy #erotica #romance
amazon UK…/dp/B007H4C…/ref=sr_1_22_twi_kin_1…
Smash Words
I tunes